Water is an essential resource for both our neighboring communities and our oil and gas operations. At Devon, water conservation and recycling are vital to our business and our social license to operate.
Committed to water conservation and reuse
Devon began recycling water in 2004 in our first U.S. shale play, the Barnett Shale in north Texas, and we’ve been building a track record of water conservation ever since. We’ve collaborated with stakeholders in government, industry and the communities where we work to find ways to conserve water in our drilling and completions operations. Above all, we’re committed to water conservation and reuse and to our core value to be a good neighbor.
We work to use water in our operations that would not be consumed for drinking and other public uses and to use recycled produced water in our operations wherever possible to avoid fresh water use in areas of drilling and production activity. Every gallon of produced, recycled, brackish or non-fresh water that Devon uses in our operations reduces our consumption of fresh water.
Water-use performance management
In some of Devon’s operating areas, water users are competing for limited supplies, which constitutes the World Resources Institute’s definition of baseline water stress. This is why we seek to conserve, reuse and recycle as much water as we can.
To manage water responsibly in water-stressed areas and throughout our operations, we’re guided by the environmental stewardship principle in our Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Philosophy. We continually seek to understand our relationship to the environment and adopt technically sound and economically feasible controls that will minimize our impact to the environment. Devon’s water principles – stakeholder engagement, water-management planning, technology evaluation and deployment, and best-practices development – help us execute a sustainable water-management strategy that balances ecological, economic, operational and social issues.
Our EHS professionals and the EHS Council monitor laws, regulations and stakeholder concerns related to water and share them with our leadership team. Devon’s business unit leaders and subject-matter experts lead our water planning efforts, including learning about new technologies and sharing best practices. Devon’s water planning includes an evaluation of potential risks to our operations and the needs of surrounding communities. The plans are updated periodically based on business needs and local environmental considerations.
Devon is a founding member of the Energy Water Initiative, a collaborative effort to study, communicate and improve lifecycle water use and management.
Conserving water in the Delaware Basin
Our history of leadership in water conservation includes being the first company to recycle flowback and produced water from natural gas wells in north Texas and becoming the largest user of treated produced water in New Mexico, where we led the effort to establish state rules to encourage the practice.
In the Delaware Basin in arid southeastern New Mexico, we’ve reused 21 million barrels of water in the last four years. Reused and brackish water account for more than 80% of the water used in our operations. To store reusable water, we’ve built eight impoundment basins – each 15 feet deep and covering four acres. Integral to our operations and to saving water, they’re connected by a local pipeline network that eliminates the need to haul away 500 truckloads of produced water each day. We use fresh water in the Delaware Basin only for blending and only when reused water isn’t available in sufficient quantities.
In addition, we’re looking for ways to reuse produced water that we don’t need for our operations. Devon is collaborating with the EPA and other organizations to better understand technologies to desalinate produced water for uses outside of the oil and gas industry. In cases where we are producing more water than we can use, cost-effective desalination could make the water suitable for aquifer recharge and other beneficial uses. To make this possible, the regulatory framework for reusing desalinated produced water also needs to be developed. We’ll continue to work with stakeholders and apply our water stewardship principles to conserve fresh water in New Mexico.
Local approach to water management
We take a local approach to developing water-management plans, which consider the availability and quality of water, local ecosystems and habitats, regulations and other factors.
Given our strong desire to be good environmental stewards, we actively seek alternatives to fresh water. When feasible, we use brackish water and flowback and produced water as sources for well completions. In Oklahoma, we’ve also built local pipelines connecting well sites to central water reuse and storage facilities, allowing us to conserve millions of barrels of water. In Wyoming, some produced water is used for agriculture and wildlife under the regulatory beneficial use category.
Devon is conscious of our fresh water use in the Eagle Ford play in Texas and uses non-potable sources where available. However, due to the smaller scale of our current drilling and completion activities in Texas, it isn’t yet economically feasible to invest in large-scale recycling facilities in the area.
For more details on Devon’s water-management program and water-use metrics, please refer to our publicly available 2019 CDP Water Response (see links at right).