Devon is committed to conserving and reusing water and to being both a good neighbor and responsible operator. We’re striving to execute a water-management strategy that balances environmental, economic, operational and social needs.
Water is vital to the health, social and economic well-being of the communities where we live and work and is an essential resource for our operations. Devon has a track record of water conservation that started when we began recycling water in the Barnett Shale in north Texas in 2004. Over the years, we’ve collaborated with government, industry and community stakeholders to find innovative ways to conserve water in our drilling and completions operations.
Devon has invested significant capital in our efforts to reduce our reliance on fresh water. It’s the right thing to do for the environment and our neighbors, and it improves our ability to respond if water availability is constrained. To conserve, we strive to use water that is not suitable for drinking or other public uses and, wherever possible, we use recycled produced water in our drilling and production activities.
Water-use performance management
In some of Devon’s operating areas, water supplies are limited. Based on the World Resources Institute’s definition of baseline water stress, approximately 25% (excluding North Texas) of our wells are located in areas of “high” or “extremely high” baseline water stress. This is why we conserve, reuse and recycle as much water as we can. Water availability and disposal options are considered in our Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) 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 to ensure our leadership team is well informed.
Guided by our EHS Philosophy, we employ economically and operationally feasible alternatives to fresh water. To execute a sustainable water-management strategy that balances environmental, economic, operational and social issues, Devon follows the water principles of stakeholder engagement, water-management planning, technology evaluation and deployment and best-practices development.
Devon’s business-unit leaders and subject-matter experts – who have a deep understanding of local water issues, challenges and opportunities – oversee our local water-management activities. Our water-planning efforts include evaluating the potential risks to our operations in each area, the needs of our stakeholders and the potential opportunities for our business. We update water plans periodically to account for business needs and local environmental considerations.
To enhance our water-management performance, we stay abreast of new technologies and best practices, often through collaboration with industry and trade organizations. As a founding member of the Energy Water Initiative, and as a participant of the New Mexico Produced Water Consortium, we study, communicate and improve lifecycle water use and management collaboratively with other oil and natural gas companies that share our commitment to conservation.
Significantly increasing water reuse in the Delaware Basin
Our history of leadership in water conservation includes being the first company to recycle flowback and produced water from natural gas wells in north Texas. After becoming the leading recycler of treated produced water in New Mexico, we led the effort to establish state rules to encourage the practice. Devon uses fresh water in the arid Delaware Basin in the southeastern part of the state only for blending and only when reused water isn’t available in sufficient quantities. Our water conservation practices have made us an industry leader in the Delaware Basin over the last five years.
In 2019, reused and brackish water accounted for more than 80% of the water we used in our Delaware Basin operations and in 2020 we’ve increased that amount to over 90%. Devon is building two new recycling facilities in our most active areas in the basin that will increase our industry leading recycling capacity. We expect to have a total of 10 recycling facilities operating in the Delaware Basin by year-end 2020. Our water-recycling strategy also includes connecting more third-party supplies to our system, which allows us to increase the volumes of recycled water available to us for operations.
Devon has built twelve impoundment basins – each of various sizes – to store reusable water. The basins, which are integral to our operations and to saving water, are connected by a local pipeline network that eliminates the need to haul water 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. In collaboration with the EPA and other organizations, we’re exploring 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 Devon will continue to work with stakeholders to find water conservation solutions in New Mexico.
Seeking alternatives to fresh water
As part of our local approach to developing water-management plans, we consider the availability and quality of water, local ecosystems and habitats, regulations and other factors.
Given our strong desire 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. In Oklahoma, Devon has reused and recycled water by building local pipelines connecting well sites to central water storage and handling facilities. In Wyoming, some produced water is used for agriculture and wildlife under the regulatory beneficial use category.
In the Eagle Ford play in south Texas, the scale of our drilling and completions activities makes it unfeasible to invest in large-scale recycling facilities. Still, we use non-potable water sources where available.
Increased water-consumption intensity in 2019 compared to 2018 was primarily driven by an increase in our average lateral lengths and was also impacted by the formations targeted and the related increase in formation-specific job sizes.
For more details on Devon’s water-management program and water-use metrics, please refer to our 2020 CDP water response.