An agricultural firm focused on reusing produced water for land conservation has secured the permits needed to apply treated water from oil and gas production to nearby arid land in three Wyoming counties.
Encore Green Environmental works with energy companies and ranchers to recycle byproduct water leftover from oil and gas drilling to improve Wyoming’s soil, air and vegetation.
The company initially received a permit from state regulators in January to conduct a pilot project in Pine Bluffs. But this month, the Department of Environmental Quality extended more permits. The additional, countywide permits allow Encore Green to also apply uncontaminated water to soil in Laramie, Sublette and Converse counties, as long as the company meets all of the state’s water quality standards and takes regular soil samples, among other provisions.
“We are excited to have the first-ever permits to land apply cleaned produced water,” said John Robitaille, president of Encore Green. “We respect and appreciate the due diligence of the Wyoming’s regulatory agencies that have granted us these permits for multiple counties.”
For every barrel of oil produced, roughly three to six barrels of water come up with it. Some 2.4 billion gallons of produced water is created through oil and gas drilling every day in the U.S. Operators can reinject the water, known as produced water, back into the ground or place it in disposal wells.
Meanwhile, surrounding landowners must contend with droughts and other water shortages.
That’s where Encore Green comes in.
Under Encore’s program, scientists will closely study the byproduct water to find the best treatment method for it. Scientists will then test the soil to identify its deficiencies. The team tests the soil for clay, sand or salinity content to determine what elements may be needed to improve the soil’s health.
After treatment and before applying any water to the land, Encore Green retests the water.
The approach, which Encore Green has named “conservation by design,” boosts soil health, prevents erosion and relieves pressure on local water supplies, especially if oil and gas operators decide to reuse the treated water for fracking again, according to the company.
The first pilot project in Pine Bluffs is on track to be completed by the end of July, according to the company.
Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also extended a permit to Encore Green in February. It allows the company to treat flowback and produced water before transferring it back to the ground.
The engineers and scientists who make up Encore Green acknowledge they are treading in uncharted waters and need to be careful. When produced water comes up to the surface with oil, it’s brackish and loaded with salts, minerals, metals, and the insoluble man-made chemicals needed for fracking.
“It’s a pilot, but it’s a pilot that cannot fail,” says Marvin Nash, co-founder of Encore Green. “The goal of the pilot is to safely clean the water to the soil’s needs and regulatory parameters. The system is designed with a fail/safe so that if the water standards aren’t met, it’s not put out onto the ground.”
Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry at @camillereports
The business news you need
With a weekly newsletter looking back at local history.