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Disposal of Produced Water

Marion Yoder, Proceedings of 37th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1991)

Conventional geologic theory holds that the source material for oil and gas reservoirs is deposited on the floor of a body of water and over time is converted to petroleum by a combination of pressure and temperature. The production of this petroleum either as oil or gas usually entails the production of some of the water of origin associated with the petroleum in the underground reservoir. Since most of the deposition of this material takes place in the ocean, it is common for produced water to be salty. Produced water also normally contains residual hydrocarbons. It is not potable and can be environmentally damaging.

Surface and subsurface disposal are effective means of dealing with produced water. Proper disposal techniques are of great importance in today's environmentally sensitive climate. The scope of this article will be to discuss the rights, obligations, and potential liabilities of an operator/lessee in disposing of produced water. While many of the principles and cases cited throughout this article will apply to the disposal of produced [21-3] water by approved means on the surface of land, the preferred and most recognized manner of water disposal is through injection. Therefore, this article will concentrate on issues specifically related to this area.