A Sustainable and Multi-Operator Approach to Water Management in Unconventional Oil and Gas Developments

Unconventional oil and gas developments are causing significant footprints resulting from freshwater use, temporary water infrastructure and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with water hauling truck trips. These status quo industry practices can also prove costly to oil and gas operators. The present study explores the economic and environmental benefits that exist when permanent water infrastructure is planned at scale using entire water life cycle considerations. Focusing on an area of study west of Grand Prairie, AB, the author demonstrates the economy of scale of such a development and proposes that this opportunity is more easily captured when two or more operators collaborate through a multi-operator water management plan (MOWP). This framework prompts regulatory and business model challenges that would need to be addressed but in the light of climate change, increasing water management costs and water security considerations, MOWPs are nothing but an opportunity to be seized.