Water is a valuable resource that we share with the communities where we operate. Marathon Oil’s water use is guided by water stewardship practices such as responsible sourcing, conservation, reuse, recycling and disposal.
Tracking the source and amount of water consumed in our operations is required by our Environmental Management Standard and the Regulatory Compliance element of our Responsible Operations Management System (ROMS). We have a corporate advisor for sustainable water management in our U.S. unconventional resource plays, with water management supervisors in specific assets. The advisor has leadership accountability for water management.
Across our U.S. resource plays, we leverage lessons learned, employ best practices, and participate in industry efforts to be good stewards of water resources and improve water management. We continuously seek cost-effective ways to reduce the impact of our operations on water resources. These include identifying sustainable water sources, and developing storage, treatment and infrastructure alternatives for water disposal. In addition, our Global Supply Chain team restructured to better support cost-effective water management.
Water consumption in our U.S. resource plays was 70 million barrels in 2017, up from 29 million barrels in 2016. The increase was related to completing or recompleting approximately 60 percent more wells in 2017 than 2016, using more extended laterals, modifying our completion design and entering the Permian Basin.
Marathon Oil assets are responsible for developing customized strategies and plans to minimize the impact of our operations on local water resources, and preserve freshwater for drinking and other community needs. Asset plans are based on local and regional sourcing options, capacity limitations, operational needs, and disposal and infrastructure alternatives. Additional details on our programs are offered for areas in which water scarcity is a concern.*
In all resource plays, Marathon Oil stores produced water in storage tanks, which our Environmental Management Standard requires to be placed in secondary containment. During fracing and flowback operations where crews are on-site and able to respond to a spill quickly, produced water may also be stored in open-top tanks. For wildlife protection, we cover open-top tanks with netting if produced water is stored. We use active deterrents such as strobe lights for temporary pits that may hold recycled water during completions activities.*
Our freshwater use in the South Texas Eagle Ford depends on the water quality available for specific lease areas, completion design, landowner requirements and other factors. Our water management strategy includes using brackish water that would not meet U.S. drinking water standards, as well as produced water instead of freshwater whenever possible. In 2017, Eagle Ford sourced approximately 92 percent of its water from nonfresh sources, comparable to 2016. We have a permanent recycling system that produces clean brine for workover and production operations in the Kenedy and Pleasanton areas of Eagle Ford.
In the Permian Basin, where the industry faces challenges with sourcing water for hydraulic fracturing and disposing of produced water, Marathon Oil built a 300,000-barrel facility to treat and recycle produced water for fracturing in our Malaga acreage. We also treated and reused production water in stimulation jobs, and worked to make produced water an economic supply source during droughts.
Our Oklahoma strategy focuses on identifying sustainable water sources and managing constraints on produced water disposal and hauling. A study of brackish groundwater in our high-activity areas revealed the water quality was too poor for our use, so we continue to investigate the potential to reuse produced water in these areas. Marathon Oil seeks to dispose of water using pipelines instead of trucks whenever possible to reduce emissions and safety hazards, but widespread collection of produced water is challenging and not always feasible on our acreage.
Marathon Oil will continue to develop strategies to manage water sourcing, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal infrastructure throughout our assets.
*Updated February 2019
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