Conservation and recycling
Water is vital to the health, social and economic well-being of our communities and is an essential resource for Devon’s operations. We’re committed to conserving fresh water and reusing water in our operations to be a good neighbor and an environmentally sound operator, as well as to mitigate physical risks associated with regional water stress.
Our operations depend on reliable access to, and the ability to safely dispose of, water used or produced in drilling and completions operations. We strive to execute a water management strategy that balances environmental, economic, operational and social needs. Our track record of water conservation goes back to 2004, when we began recycling water in the Barnett Shale in north Texas. Since then, we’ve collaborated with government, industry and community stakeholders to find innovative ways to conserve water in our drilling and completions operations companywide.
Devon works to identify and develop alternative sources of water for operational activities and has invested significant capital to reduce our reliance on fresh water. Using less fresh water also reduces the amount of water for disposal, saves money, creates efficiencies and improves our ability to respond if water availability or disposal capacity is constrained.
To conserve, we strive to use water that is not suitable for drinking and other public uses and, wherever possible, we use recycled produced water in our drilling and production activities.
We take these steps because they’re the right thing to do for the environment and our communities.
Water management strategy
Water supplies are limited in some of Devon’s operating areas. Based on the World Resources Institute’s definition of baseline water stress, approximately 8% of legacy Devon’s operated wells are located in areas of “high” or “extremely high” baseline water stress. To mitigate physical risks of regional water stress, we conserve, reuse and recycle as much water as we can.
We consider water availability and disposal options in our enterprise risk management process and in our daily planning, along with other environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks. Devon’s EHS Council and subject matter experts monitor laws, regulations and stakeholder concerns related to water and keep our leadership team well informed.
Guided by our EHS Philosophy, we employ economically and operationally feasible alternatives to fresh water. To execute a sustainable water management strategy, Devon follows the water principles of stakeholder engagement, water management planning, technology evaluation and deployment, and best practices development.
Our local water management activities are overseen by business unit leaders and subject matter experts who have a deep understanding of local water issues, challenges and opportunities. Devon’s water planning efforts include evaluating the potential risks to our operations in each area, stakeholder needs and potential opportunities for our business. We update our water plans periodically to account for business needs and local environmental considerations.
To enhance our water management performance, Devon stays abreast of new technologies and best practices, often through collaboration. We’re a founding member of the Energy Water Initiative and an active participant in the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium. Devon continues to study, communicate and improve lifecycle water use and management together with other oil and natural gas companies that share our commitment to conservation.
Recycling in our highest-activity basin
As the first company to recycle flowback and produced water from natural gas wells in north Texas, Devon is an industry pioneer in recycling. We became one of the leading recyclers of treated produced water in New Mexico and led the effort to establish state rules to encourage the practice. Today, our recycling efforts are focused in the New Mexico Delaware Basin, where water scarcity is an issue.
Devon uses fresh water in the Delaware Basin only for blending and only when recycled and brackish sources of water aren’t sufficient.
In 2020, reused and brackish water accounted for more than 90% of the water legacy Devon used in our Delaware Basin operations, up from over 80% in 2019. The legacy companies combined used approximately 37 million barrels of reused and recycled water in 2020 and expect to increase our volume of reused and recycled water to an estimated 47 million barrels in 2021. Since 2015, we have reused over 150 million barrels of water from our water treatment facilities. Our water recycling strategy also includes connecting third-party supplies to our system, which increases the volume of recycled water available for our operations.
Integral to operations and saving water, Devon built impoundment basins to store the reusable water. The basins are connected by a local pipeline network that diminishes the need to haul water away by truck. Taking trucks off the road reduces emissions and traffic safety hazards.
In addition, we’re looking for ways to reuse produced water that we don’t need for our operations. Through the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium, we’re exploring beneficial reuse opportunities, including technologies to desalinate produced water for uses outside of the oil and gas industry. In cases where we produce more water than we can use, cost-effective desalination could make the water suitable for aquifer recharge and other beneficial uses. This would require development of the regulatory framework for reusing desalinated produced water, which is why we continue to work with stakeholders to find water conservation solutions in New Mexico.
Local water management considerations
As part of our local approach to water management, we consider the availability and quality of water, local ecosystems and habitats, regulations and other factors.
Given our commitment to be a good neighbor, we actively seek alternatives to fresh water, including brackish water and flowback and produced water for well completions where feasible. We will continue exploring conservation efforts outside of the Delaware Basin.