Official says fresh water rule encourages industry to save on transport costs

James Fenton
The Daily Times

Wally Drangmeister, New Mexico Oil & Gas Association spokesman, said his organization was actively involved in the rule's creation.

“This is a win-win rule,” Dragmeister said. “The industry has been for years working on technology to recycle and reuse water from hydraulic fracturing and to use produced water from hydraulic fracturing jobs.”

Drangmeister said the rule — which requires operators to store produced water in double-lined pits with leak-detection systems — brings the regulation up to speed with the advances in industry drilling operations.

“This rule is an acknowledgement of the improvements in technology and we as an industry view that as a good thing — for the industry, the state and the environment.”

In March, the state Oil Conservation Commission adopted the rule — Title 19, Chapter 15, Part 34 of the state's administrative code — to promote greater recycling and reuse of produced water by the oil and gas industry.

The rule was approved by the commission after a public hearing in Santa Fe and became effective on March 31.

While some oil and gas companies have already integrated the practice of recycling produced water in their operations, the new rule gives them clear guidelines on the use of recycled water.

WPX Energy said it recycles nearly all of the water it uses on a well pad and saves money doing so.

Despite the rule, Drangmesiter said the amount of fresh water used by the oil and gas industry is relatively small compared to other industries like agriculture and to public consumption.

In 2013, less than one quarter of one percent of the state's water usage was related to hydraulic fracturing by operators, Drangmesiter said. “It's not a big amount of fresh water being used by (the) oil and gas (industry),” he said. “But this is New Mexico, so being responsible with our precious water resources is important.”

Drangmeister also said the state drafted and implemented the rule efficiently.

“It provides predictability. Certainly using less fresh water and encouraging that is a very good thing,” he said. “Until the last few years the chemistry of hydraulic fracturing is a lot easier to do with fresh water, but there's very smart petroleum engineers and biologists and chemists and they've made dramatic improvements to how water is used.”

With the state in a prolonged drought, Drangmesiter said the impetus behind the rule obvious.

“This is New Mexico,” he said. “Water is vital here. So the rule is such a positive thing for New Mexico.”

Secretary David Martin — head of New Mexico's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department — said the rule protects fresh water in the state and will not hinder ongoing oil and gas development throughout New Mexico.

“These common-sense guidelines will reduce fresh water consumption by the industry, which makes sense both environmentally and economically,” Martin said in a press release. “We're proud to have worked with many partners on this new rule which we believe will save New Mexico's freshwater while still providing resources for oil and gas production in our state.”

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and . Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.