RRC Rolls Out Regulatory Framework for Produced Water Recycling Pilot Studies

January 10, 2024

The Railroad Commission has issued a framework for pilot programs that could greatly enhance environmental protection in Texas with the potential to recycle produced water safely and economically.

Produced water is a byproduct of what comes to the surface during oil and gas production, and the produced water recycling framework will provide a regulatory pathway for operators to assess the effectiveness and the suitability of applying treated produced water for beneficial purposes. 

Operators will apply for authorization to conduct pilot studies, and RRC will issue a permit or letter of authorization if the application meets requirements. The operators would compile data of how treated produced water can be reused in certain activities that are safe and protective of human health and the environment.

Ultimately, the potential exists to reduce the amount of produced water that gets injected back into the ground, which can help reduce incidents of seismicity, as well as developing a potential water source for above ground use. 

“This is another example of how we stay at the forefront of our critical mission of protecting public safety and the environment while we regulate an industry that is crucial to the state’s economy,” said Wei Wang, RRC Executive Director. “This framework opens up the potential to use treated produced water in ways that have never been seen before in Texas, which is a win-win for conserving water resources, and protecting the environment and Texans.”  

The Commission will focus attention on the effectiveness of treatment technologies and examine proper methods for gathering, storing, treating, testing, and documenting how treated water quality evolves and is controlled in each pilot facility. The oil and gas industry has been using recycled produced water in oil and gas activities. The pilot studies will explore opportunities in additional beneficial uses. Treated fluid will not be allowed to be discharged to surface water during the pilot studies.  

The produced water recycling framework is a starting point and will evolve over time in collaboration with the work of others such as the academic community, consortia, industry, and community leaders.

The information obtained by these pilot studies can be used to develop more focused regulation on produced water recycling and help guide future development.

A copy of the framework can be found on the RRC website at https://www.rrc.texas.gov/oil-and-gas/applications-and-permits/environmental-permit-types/pilot-projects/.

About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit https://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.