A Study of the Technical and Economic Potential for Using Flared Natural Gas to Treat Wastewater at Shale Production Sites

Yael R. Glazer, Dr. F. Todd Davidson, Jamie J. Lee, Gordon T. Tsai, and Dr. Michael E. Webber, September 2016 (Citation)


Over the last decade, the United States has seen a dramatic rise in domestic oil and natural gas production. This growth is primarily a result of increased use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in shale regions across the country. Oil and gas production from shale basins via hydraulic fracturing is associated with many environmental liabilities including high water use per completed well (compared to conventional oil and gas well completion), substantial volumes of wastewater (WW) that must be managed, and flaring of co-produced natural gas.

This report summarizes the work and findings of a yearlong project executed by the University of Texas at Austin for the US Department of Energy to assess the technical and economic feasibility of treating WW using the energy from natural gas that might otherwise have been flared at shale oil and gas production sites. The proposed operation practice could potentially generate a valuable commodity of treated water in the various shale regions in the US while also minimizing the environmental impact of traditional WW management and flare gas (FG) management practices.