US EPA and New Mexico to clarify reuse rules for oil and gas

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with the State of New Mexico to clarify existing regulatory and permitting frameworks for reusing wastewater produced by oil and gas extractors.

New Mexico oil and gas operators produced 900 million barrels (143 million m3) of wastewater in 2017, the majority of which was disposed of by deep well injection. This method of underground injection permanently removes water from the water cycle.

A workgroup will produce a white paper to synthesise the existing regulatory framework under state and federal law in New Mexico, and to identify opportunities for beneficial wastewater reuse. 

“Reuse of water in appropriate applications has the potential to relieve the growing demand on our ground and surface water sources, and for that reason alone this effort makes absolute sense,” said New Mexico State engineer Tom Blaine.

The work will build on the oil and gas wastewater study that the EPA announced in May 2018. The study considers approaches to managing conventional and unconventional oil and gas extraction wastewater from onshore facilities, including assessing technologies to treat and discharge the wastewater.