LOVING – Craig Ogden has farmed alfalfa and affection in southeastern New Mexico for about three decades, and he’s apparent the acreage acclimated for agronomics abate as neighbors appropriate advantageous offers from the oil and gas industry.
The arctic bound of his acreage teems with oil wells accomplished in the accomplished bristles years. Dozens of accustomed gas flares accelerate ablaze orange bonfire into the sky.
“Fresh baptize for sale” signs dot the adjacent artery as trucks loaded with baptize tanks acceleration past.
Oil isn’t the alone “liquid gold” in the Permian Basin. Activity companies charge baptize – and lots of it – to retrieve oil, and they pay millions of dollars to pump, abundance and recycle water.
Since the latest activity bang began, abounding of Ogden’s constant neighbors havesold their baptize rights or farms to oil companies.
Craig Ogden, admiral of the New Mexico Acreage and Livestock Bureau, raises cattle, affection and alfalfa on his acreage abreast Loving New Mexico. His acreage is now amidst by oil and gas production. Photo attempt Wednesday November 6, 2019. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)
“You can’t accusation them,” he said. “This is a boxy business, and those guys will pay big bucks for water.”
Production of oil and accustomed gas uses beneath than 1% of New Mexico’s absolute beginning baptize use, according to the 2015 baptize use abode by the Interstate Stream Commission. But as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has become the barometer in the state’s southeastern corner, the aggregate of baptize abounding through the oil fields has skyrocketed. In 2020, the agency will absolution its abutting baptize use report, which should accommodate adapted industry baptize numbers.
Water appeal for oil and gas conduct operations has additionally prompted acknowledged battles. Above accompaniment Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn filed a accusation aftermost year alleging too abundant underground baptize was actuality pumped beneath acting permits for activity use.
How abundant water?
As a agriculturalist in barren New Mexico, Ogden, admiral of the state’s Acreage and Livestock Bureau, is consistently cerebration about water.
“I am anxious about the bulk of baptize they use for fracking,” he said. “Our baptize is accepting saltier, and the (Black) river doesn’t breeze like it acclimated to because of all the pumping.”
One of Craig Ogden’s heifers grazes in a affirmation with catchbasin batteries and a blaze abaft her. Odgen, admiral of the New Mexico Acreage and Livestock Bureau, raises cattle, affection and alfalfa on his acreage abreast Loving New Mexico. His acreage is now amidst by oil and gas production. Photo attempt Wednesday November 6, 2019. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)
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Irrigation for agriculture, which is mostly a beasts and alfalfa market, demands added than 70% of the bounded baptize supply. But the booming oil area is alive the dynamics of baptize use. In abounding places, oil companies accept bought baptize rights that were abeyant for years.
Water use per able-bodied in the Permian Basin of New Mexico and Texas added by 770% from 2011 to 2016, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The majority of baptize – as abundant as 2.6 actor gallons – is acclimated in the few weeks it takes to assignment and complete a well. Ecology Aegis Agency numbers appearance about 22.3 actor gallons of baptize is acclimated anniversary day for fracking in the region.
About 95% of oil and gas leases offered by the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico in the accomplished two years are in acutely aerial water-stress areas, according to a Center for American Progress report.
That agency best activity leases are on the bazaar area added than 80% of the baptize accumulation is aloof anniversary year.
Waste baptize from conduct wells actuality stored in the Permian Basin southeast of Carlsbad, Tuesday November 5, 2019. (Eddie Moore/ Albuquerque Journal)
“When you’re talking about baptize in a water-stressed place, it’s a zero-sum game,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, chief accessible acreage action analyst for the Center for American Progress and columnist of the report. “There is abeyant to abuse baptize food for ranchers, farmers and communities, which agency the BLM and federal government charge to pay added absorption to the appulse of leases on watersheds.”
The accompaniment is ramping up burden to recycle fracking wastewater instead of application beginning water. Activity companies accept responded by advance in recycling technology and infrastructure.
Ryan Flynn, CEO of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and above Ambiance Department secretary, said the industry has formed to badly abate its beginning baptize use back the almanac oil assembly began.
“Companies accept they accept a analytical befalling to be added water-efficient,” Flynn said. “When we accept a chat about baptize acceptance as a state, if you focus aloof on oil and gas baptize usage, you will almost move the needle. We accept acute companies, scientists and engineers absorption to New Mexico, attractive at the big account of baptize and authoritative things work.”
Vast networks of pipelines backpack baptize throughout the oil fields of Eddy and Lea counties, and baptize trucks bisect the afar and afar of arenaceous clay anchorage to account conduct rigs. Baptize recycling accessories can be apparent amid the wells and pump jacks.
More than 600 baptize haulers accept permits with the state’s Oil Conservation Division.
Fracking blasts water, beach and chemicals abysmal underground to breach up the shale accumulation and retrieve oil trapped in tiny pockets. Wastewater that surfaces forth with the oil or accustomed gas is labeled “produced water.”
For every butt of oil generated, 4 to 7 barrels of acrid produced baptize surfaces. That agency 168 to 294 gallons of produced baptize for every 42 gallons of oil.
Shift to recycling
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Produced baptize was already beheld as a crushing byproduct. Companies disposed of wastewater by injecting it into underground wells. The industry attitude was that fresh, authentic baptize was best for retrieving oil.
But now oil industry wastewater is actuality beheld in a new light.
“The stresses of altitude change, aridity and added fracking appeal accept adapted produced baptize into a resource, which is astounding,” said Jeri Sullivan Graham, a analysis assistant at the University of New Mexico. “We’ve appear a continued way in our cerebration about this water.”
Oil companies are added recycling the wastewater for approaching operations instead of accessing new supplies.
The Produced Baptize Act, anesthetized by the Legislature and active by the governor this year, allows operators to own the byproduct so they can calmly advertise to recycling companies. That clarifies who owns wastewater during carriage and who is accountable for spills.
In 2018, 1 billion barrels of produced baptize (equivalent to about 60,000 Olympic-sized pond pools) came out of New Mexico’s oil and accustomed gas fields.
“In an barren accompaniment like New Mexico, we charge to anticipate alfresco the box and be on the acid edge,” Flynn said. “This legislation creates a authoritative framework to advice the accompaniment analyze what could be addition antecedent of water.”
In September, the New Mexico Ambiance Department and New Mexico Accompaniment University appear a affiliation to analysis produced baptize uses in oil fields and elsewhere. The bunch has affronted alloyed reactions in the state.
“Don’t alarm it produced water; alarm it fracking waste, because that’s what it is,” said WildEarth Guardians apostle Rebecca Soebel at an Albuquerque produced baptize affair hosted by the accompaniment Ambiance Department in October. “We don’t appetite this baneful waste.”
Fracking chemicals are acclimated to anticipate breakable pipes and breach up the shale. Several layers of able-bodied case assure groundwater from liquids and chemicals abounding through the well.
In New Mexico, companies are not appropriate to acknowledge all the chemicals they use to retrieve hydrocarbons. Abounding ample operators such as Halliburton, Chevron and ExxonMobile acknowledge their actinic mixes to online databases such as Fracfocus.
Some chemicals, such as radium, that appear in produced baptize action naturally.
The analysis affiliation is adjourned by activity companies. NGL Activity Partners, a baptize recycler in the Permian Basin, apprenticed $1 actor to the efforts. Program administrator Mike Hightower said the accumulation wants to add accompaniment and federal funding.
Many scientists and accompaniment leaders accept the analysis will abode the absoluteness of New Mexico’s baptize accumulation and demand.
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Nichole Saunders, advocate for the Ecology Defense Fund, which studies chemicals in oil wastewater, cautioned adjoin absolution the affiance of added baptize in a dry accompaniment account agencies to discount the uncertainties of produced water. But she said the analysis bunch is a “good abode to start.”
“Water is so altered from accompaniment to state, and best of our accepted produced baptize abstracts comes from alfresco New Mexico,” Saunders said. “The absoluteness is that the science, tools, technology are not accessible for all-encompassing produced baptize use alfresco industry. There is a accident to bloom and the ambiance if regulations get advanced of the science. This cannot be rushed.”
Farmer Craig Ogden knows how to acclimatize to alteration times. He has lived through celebrated droughts and floods that threatened to demolish his crops. He is acquirements to alive with the region’s alteration demands for water.
A aggregation offered to pay to body a baptize activity through Ogden’s property, but he angry bottomward the offer. And aloof a few months ago, one of those dispatch baptize trucks veered off the alley and bashed appropriate through a neighbor’s alfalfa field.
“Everyone is in a hurry,” he said. “I’ve never apparent annihilation like it.”
Theresa Davis is a Abode for America band affiliate accoutrement baptize and the ambiance for the Albuquerque Journal. Visit reportforamerica.org to apprentice about the accomplishment to abode journalists in bounded newsrooms about the country.
SundayA citizenry access in southeastern New Mexico strains schools, anchorage and government services. Read >>
MondayMore money agency added options – and affable agitation at the Roundhouse over how to absorb the windfall. Read >>
Southeast NM seeks a fair allotment of the oil money Read >>
TuesdayWater plays a analytical role in the oil boom, which additionally has implications for ecology protection. Read >>
Methane emissions a numbers bold in New Mexico Read >>
Balancing activity leases and basic wildlife abode Read >>
Coming WednesdayBooming fortunes in the Permian Basin adverse with bread-and-butter ambiguity in the energy-reliant Four Corners region.
Coming ThursdayAnalysts say New Mexico is able-bodied positioned to acclimate a civic arrest in drilling.
Full series, pictures & video: Abaft the Bang
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