Oil recovery operations entail extensive use of financial and natural resources. Enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques such as gas (CO2) and chemical flooding improve the recovery of oil and its byproducts. However, the water that results from oil production is challenging to manage. Even when separated from the recovered oil and gas, this water's high salt content, as well as organic and other matter, make it unfit for ground disposal. Grease and imperfect separation of the water from other chemicals post-recovery do not allow for ecological offshore disposal either. Treatment and transport of produced water is expensive and difficult to sustain, prompting a need for alternatives.
The PRRC's Produced Water and Petroleum Engineering Team targets strategies and technologies meant to improve the effectiveness and availability of techniques for water use reduction, recycling, and purification. Through chemical and mechanical processes, these techniques aim to conserve existing resources as well as render brackish produced water into a resource for future well operations. Purification and filtration techniques aim to cleanse produced water into a viable resource for community and agricultural applications.
Managing saline-rich or otherwise impure water has been a primary effort of the PRRC since 2000. The New Mexico Produced Water Tax Incentive of 2001 provided additional impetus for industries as well as researchers to develop and implement solutions to wellhead water production.