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Preserve and Conserve Water

During drilling activities, one of the most important objectives for us is to protect groundwater. To isolate and protect freshwater zones throughout the life of the well, we design and construct new wells with multiple barriers of steel casing and cement. We closely monitor system pressures during drilling and completion activities. When drilling through freshwater zones, we use air or freshwater-based fluids to prevent water contamination. We hold fluids recovered from hydraulic fracturing in tanks or lined pits and manage them in accordance with government-approved methods to ensure safety and environmental protection. Additionally, in some areas we have begun baseline groundwater sampling to assure we have no impact on drinking water aquifers. We plan to expand this program to other areas as new shale resources are developed.

At the end of a well’s productive life, we follow stringent site-closure requirements. These include setting cement plugs and/or mechanical barriers inside the well to isolate and protect freshwater sources.

ConocoPhillips implements water management practices to use this vital resource efficiently.

In the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico, ConocoPhillips has reused 1.9 million gallons of water this year – the equivalent of a sheet of water 12 inches high spanning five acres. “This is very important in the desert southwest,” says Paul Marken, completions supervisor. “It means less freshwater is diverted from potential agricultural and municipal uses.”

This pilot project, which includes 9 wells, reuses the “produced water” that routinely flows from a well along with oil and natural gas. The water is separated and then trucked to a filtration site, where trace amounts of oil, solid carbonates and other substances are removed. The filtered water is then hauled to a new well where it is reused for hydraulic fracturing.

We also founded the Eagle Ford Water Consortium, a group of oil and natural gas producers that meets regularly to share information about water use planning and to interact with local and state regulators. In addition, using our own research findings and technological advances within the industry, we continually strive to reduce and conserve the water we use in hydraulic fracturing. In the Eagle Ford, we have reduced our water usage by up to 45% by modifying the composition of our fracturing fluid. This change was first implemented in early 2011 and is now applied to all our new Eagle Ford wells.