Protecting our Most Valuable Resource - 11/14/2014

Water is the most essential resource for human survival, and having clean, accessible water is essential to quality of life. The oil and natural gas industry knows how important clean water is to families all over Oklahoma. And because industry professionals live and work in this community and have families of their own, they often go above and beyond standard safety practices to protect groundwater resources.

Producers comply with stringent regulatory standards and state permitting guidelines when drilling a well. The actual drilling is typically performed thousands of feet below ground water, underneath numerous layers of rock formations. Each well drilled in Oklahoma is lined with three layers of industrial steel casing separated by an additional three layers of cement – that is six protective layers that separate drilling materials from the surrounding environment. A typical well has nearly 3 million pounds of steel and cement, and each layer is airtight.

Beyond drilling procedures, production sites also have numerous safeguards to further protect groundwater resources, including using steel storage tanks and lined impoundments to hold water, drilling mud and rock fragments. These impoundments provide an impermeable barrier to keep produced water away from the topsoil.

The amount of water used to produce oil and natural gas varies greatly, but overall the industry is responsible for only 2 percent of Oklahoma’s water usage. (Livestock and agriculture follow that at 12 percent, and irrigation at 32 percent.) Many producers are also beginning to establish water-recycling programs, in order to reuse the water they produce. This will reduce the need for fresh water even further.

Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas producers are leaders in protecting water. To learn more about how the industry is protecting our water sources, visit the OERB’s Environmental Stewardship page