Conserve, reuse and recycle
Water is an essential resource for the health, social and economic well-being of our communities, as well as for Devon’s operations. To be a good neighbor and an environmentally sound operator, Devon is committed to conserving freshwater and reusing water in our operations.
We require reliable access to water used or produced in our drilling and completions operations, and the ability to safely dispose of it. Our water management strategy seeks to balance environmental, economic, operational and social needs, and to mitigate physical risks associated with regional water stress. We have a track record for water conservation that goes back to recycling water in the Barnett Shale in north Texas starting in 2004. Since then, we’ve collaborated with government, industry and community stakeholders to find innovative ways to conserve water in our drilling and completions activities across the company.
Every gallon of produced, non-potable or recycled-brackish water Devon uses in our operations reduces our consumption of freshwater. We work to identify and develop alternative sources of water for operational activities and have invested significant capital to reduce our reliance on freshwater. Using less freshwater 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 actions because they’re the right thing to do for the environment and our communities.
We took our water conservation commitment a step further in 2021 by setting a public target to use 90% or more non-freshwater for completions activities in our most active operating areas within the Delaware Basin.
Local approach to water management
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 Devon operated wells as of December 31, 2021, were located in areas of “high” or “extremely high” baseline water stress. We conserve, reuse and recycle as much water as we can to mitigate the physical risks of water stress.
Water availability and disposal options are considerations in our enterprise risk management process and in our daily planning, along with other environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks. Devon’s EHS Council, ESG team and subject matter experts monitor laws, regulations and stakeholder concerns related to water and keep our leadership team well informed on our risks and opportunities.
Guided by our EHS Philosophy, we use economically and operationally feasible alternatives to freshwater. 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 business unit leaders and subject matter experts oversee our local water management activities, based on their deep understanding of local water issues, challenges and opportunities. As part of our local approach to water management, our teams consider the availability and quality of water, local ecosystems, habitats, regulations and other factors. Devon’s water planning efforts also 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 capabilities, Devon stays abreast of new technologies and best practices, often through collaboration. We’re an active participant in the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium and a founding member of the Energy Water Initiative. 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.
As part of evaluating ways to diversify and complement our core business, we’re looking at opportunities for produced water management and beneficial reuse of produced water.
Reducing fresh water use in the Delaware Basin
As the first company to recycle flowback and produced water in 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. Our recycling efforts are now concentrated in the New Mexico Delaware Basin, where we have our highest level of activity and water scarcity is an issue.
Devon uses freshwater in the Delaware Basin only for blending and only when we don’t have sufficient sources of recycled and brackish water.
In 2021, our Delaware Basin operations accounted for nearly 90% of Devon’s total water consumption and we used more than 90% non-freshwater in our most active operating areas within the basin. We significantly increased recycled water capacity at two sites and connected to more third-party suppliers in the Delaware Basin during the year.
Companywide, we used 61 million barrels of recycled water in 2021, up 65% from 37 million barrels in 2020. Since 2015, Devon has reused over 200 million barrels of water from our water treatment facilities.
Impoundment basins we built in the Delaware Basin to store reusable water are integral to our operations and to saving water. The basins are connected by a local pipeline network that reduces the need to haul water away by truck. Taking water trucks off the road has the added benefit of reducing 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.
Devon continues to implement our water management strategy to achieve our goal of using 90% or more non-freshwater for completions activities in our most active operating areas in the Delaware Basin. To be a good neighbor, we’ll also keep exploring ways to conserve freshwater and increase our use of brackish, flowback and produced water in all of our operating areas.