Using the water scarcity evaluation tool Aqueduct, we tailor our regional water management strategy to reduce our environmental impact. According to Aqueduct, baseline water stress measures the ratio of total annual water withdrawals to total available annual renewable supply, accounting for upstream consumption.
We track the sources and amount of water consumed in our operations to evaluate our performance and target opportunities to conserve fresh water and reduce usage. Our tracking of water usage and disposal is mandated by our Environmental Management Standard and the Regulatory Compliance element of our Responsible Operations Management System (ROMS). In 2019, we continue to evaluate appropriate metrics for water intensity including water usage normalized against energy production.
To facilitate sustainable water sourcing opportunities in our U.S. resource plays, we have a corporate water management advisor with leadership accountability. Water management supervisors are embedded in the assets to address local and regional sourcing options, capacity limitations, operational needs, and disposal and infrastructure alternatives.
We provide industry leadership by participating in trade groups that share lessons learned and best practices regarding sustainable water management. For example, Marathon Oil is a founding member of the Energy Water Initiative, a group that focuses on sustainable water management practices in the U.S.
The vast majority of our water consumption, typically more than 95%, is used in completions during hydraulic fracturing. Water consumption in our U.S. resource plays was 82 million barrels in 2018, compared to 70 million barrels in 2017.
Importantly, we increased the efficiency of our completions by reducing our water consumption per hydraulic fracturing stage by 2%. Throughout the most recent downturn, we were able to maintain significant usage of alternative sources because our activity was focused in the Eagle Ford, where productive saline aquifers and company-owned supply infrastructure are available. As activity levels increased in the Bakken, Oklahoma and Permian Basin, our usage of freshwater sources increased. We continue to search for options that conserve freshwater and have made progress in Oklahoma and the Permian Basin.
Competitively Advantaged Multi-Basin Model¹
Marathon Oil wants to preserve freshwater for drinking and other community needs. Three primary drivers of alternative water usage are the availability of alternative water sources; the ability of our assets to develop contiguous acreage; and, the regulatory environment, including local governments’ flexibility in transporting and storing produced, brackish and alternative water. As our assets mature and the subsurface qualities are better understood, we’re able to make data-driven decisions about alternative water source viability and infrastructure.
- ᵃ Permian asset acquired in 2017
Water Usage by Resource Play
In 2018, more than 85% of our sourcing water in the Eagle Ford was brackish, which isn’t suitable for human drinking water, and has limited or no agricultural or livestock applications. We developed water sourcing infrastructure that mainly taps available brackish groundwater, leading to a long-term sustainable system. In addition, to fully leverage the available brackish water, we engaged with hydraulic fracturing service companies to develop fracturing fluids that are compatible with higher chloride water. In 2019, we plan to add saltwater disposal and pipeline capacity to further reduce truck hauling of produced water, as well as to conduct a trial of water reuse for fracturing jobs.
We’re investigating a minimal footprint treatment system that would allow us to cost-effectively treat high volumes of produced water on demand for internal use, adding flexibility to our operations, eliminating large volume storage, increasing ability to reuse produced water, and minimizing the surface impacts of water recycling.
Under an agreement with another operator to share produced water, we were able to use recycled water for a multi-well pad. The asset also established commercial midstream partnerships and conducted a successful trial reusing produced water for drilling mud systems that we will implement in 2019. In addition, we lead an operator technical water group focused on sharing best practices.
Produced water in the Bakken region typically has high saline content. We continue evaluating the technical viability of using this higher-saline produced water in our Bakken operations. In 2018, the asset conducted several completions using produced water and is evaluating other opportunities. Initial results indicate that these completions reduce the use of freshwater by approximately 25%.
Based on our evaluation of the risks and benefits associated with various strategies, we’ll continue to develop options to manage water sourcing, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal infrastructure throughout our assets.
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