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Eagle Ford: Lawmakers in Austin aim to help oil, water mix
The continuing drought, the nation’s economic challenges, and the recent increase in oil and gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” have combined to compete for a precious Texas commodity: water. Two pieces of legislation address oil recovery methods using water in extraction or to promote productivity.
Texas House Bill 100, authored by Rep. Van Taylor, and Texas Senate Bill 136 by Sen. Rodney Ellis were introduced during this legislative session. New methods allow for secondary and tertiary recovery, also known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). For more on the bills, see “Second -- or third -- time’s a charm for oil recovery,” April 24 issue.
The office of State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who chairs the Government Organization Committee of the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Census, provided the Wilson County News with data regarding the two bills.
Background to the bills explains that “the entire reservoir is ‘flooded’ with gas, all mineral tracts in the reservoir are involved in the tertiary operation, including those that for some reason would elect to stay out of the unit.” Without the passage of these bills, an estimated 17 percent of the “Original Oil in Place” (OOP) would not be captured; otherwise, the well would be plugged and the oil field abandoned.
“Because of EOR [enhanced oil recovery], old, depleted oil fields can now be tapped, and significant amounts of CO2 [carbon dioxide] can be captured and prevented from entering the atmosphere,” Zaffarini said in an April 11 email.
An Oct. 3, 2012, Houston Chronicle article stated that enhanced oil recovery represents about 20 percent of the state’s oil production. Also, the U.S Department of Energy estimates the Texas Gulf Coast could account for more than 4 billion barrels of recoverable oil of the 23 billion barrels statewide.
In efforts to extract as much as possible from wells, a method known as waterflooding also is being used.
Waterflooding “... is the next big money-making phase of the Shale Revolution,” wrote Oil and Gas Investment Bulletin Publisher Keith Schaefer in an August 2012 report.
“Producers are using ‘waterfloods’ -- pushing water into underground formations to flush a large amount of oil out to nearby producing wells -- to increase production and profits,” Schaefer explained.
“Waterfloods are cheap to try and cheap to run (with most operations costing just $5-$10 per barrel!),” Schaefer added. “And now the industry is seeing that they are sometimes doubling reserves from a well.”
See “What is waterflooding?” for more.
One question raised, but yet unanswered, is if waterflooding will use recycled or fresh water.
While the oil and gas exploration is benefiting the Texas economy and lessening the need to rely on foreign oil, the use of injection wells -- especially in the area north of the Eagle Ford shale -- has elicited negative feedback. This is yet another aspect of the water debate.
Wilson County residents already have fought one injection well in the La Vernia area, and landowners in the Stockdale area and residents and officials in Karnes City have voiced concerns about injection wells to dispose of frack water, a byproduct of drilling in the Eagle Ford shale.
Area residents and officials are concerned about the possibility of fluids from injection wells leaching into groundwater or underground water supplies. With the increased state population and ongoing drought, many feel these concerns are valid.
The two bills do not address these concerns, however. HB 100 is pending in committee. SB 136 has been sent to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The debate continues.
What is waterflooding?
“Waterflooding (of oil deposits), [is] the injection of water into oil beds in order to maintain and restore formation pressure and the formation energy balance.
Waterflooding provides high oil production rates and a relatively high degree of underground petroleum recovery, since exploitation proceeds at the most efficient water-pressure operating conditions of the bed (the oil contained in rock pores or fissures is replaced by water). ...
Waterflooding allows a considerable decrease in the number of oil wells and a sharp increase in their output (daily production), substantially lowering the costs for each ton of oil produced.
A waterflooding system usually consists of water intakes, vessels, cleaning installations, pumping stations, water circulating systems, and pressure injection wells. Water is injected into the oil beds through a system of injection boreholes usually drilled especially for this purpose.”
Source: http://encyclopedia2.thefree dictionary.com
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