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Supporting Water Management in the Permian Basin

Confidential Client Permian Basin, Texas, USA
CDM Smith helped an oil and natural gas developer improve its management of water for upstream drilling activities through the design and construction of water storage and supply infrastructure.

In the arid Per­mian Basin in west­ern Texas, water comes at a pre­mium for oil and gas com­pa­nies. Fo­cused water man­age­ment, there­fore, is crit­i­cal to man­ag­ing costs and run­ning suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions. Since 2015, CDM Smith has been in the Basin sup­port­ing a lead­ing, con­fi­den­tial nat­ural gas and oil de­vel­oper with its water man­age­ment for un­con­ven­tional de­vel­op­ment. We are de­sign­ing and con­struct­ing water man­age­ment in­fra­struc­ture to cost-ef­fec­tively store, blend, de­liver and use di­verse sources of water to sup­port the de­vel­oper’s drilling and com­ple­tions ac­tiv­i­ties. CDM Smith has com­pleted $4 mil­lion in water in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects as part of this on­go­ing pro­gram.

In January 2015, we worked closely with the developer to create a straightforward design package for their impoundments, which store fresh, produced and brackish water for hydraulic fracturing activities. While generally considered to be the low-tech aspect of water management programs, water storage is key to efficient oil and gas development. Impoundments—if properly designed and constructed—can ensure source water volumes required by large-scale fracking, reduce spills and leaks, and improve long-term storage integrity. Using this new model, the developer has effectively standardized all installation procedures and minimized the risk of future failures.

CDM Smith has subsequently designed and built four environmentally responsible and compliant water storage impoundments. They include two 500,000-barrel freshwater ponds, a double-lined brackish water impoundment, and a double-impoundment with separate areas for produced and brackish water storage. Construction of each incorporated industry best practices to support long-term asset integrity and use.

After sites were cleared and grubbed, the ponds were excavated and 3:1 slope berms were constructed to reduce surface runoff. During construction quality assurance and control, native soil samples were taken and analyzed to verify that berm materials could reach 95 percent compaction. Nuclear density testing verified that compaction was achieved before high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liners were installed. To protect the ponds’ liners from being torn or damaged by off-loading hoses during water transfer, supplemental HDPE liners were layered on top. Erosion control geotextiles were also added to the exterior of the berms.

In addition to the impoundments, CDM Smith continues to support the developer’s overall water management strategy through the design and construction of four high-volume brackish water supply wells. These wells will provide the developer the source water it needs to fill the new impoundments while reducing the amount of fresh water it needs to purchase, offsetting the cost of constructing the wells within the first three months of use.

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