Big trouble is brewing in the mighty North Dakota Bakken Oil Field. While oil production in the Bakken has reversed since it bottomed in 2016 and increased over the past few years, so has the amount of by-product wastewater. Now, it’s not an issue if water production increases along with oil. However, it’s a serious RED FLAG if by-product wastewater rises a great deal more than oil.
And… unfortunately, that is exactly what has taken place in the Bakken over the past two years. In the oil industry, they call it, the rising “Water Cut.” Furthermore, the rapid increase in the amount of water to oil from a well or field suggests that peak production is at hand. So, now the shale companies will have an up-hill battle to try to increase or hold production flat as the water cut rises.
According to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the Bakken produced 201 million barrels of oil in the first six months of 2018. However, it also produced a stunning 268 million barrels of wastewater:
Thus, the companies producing shale oil in the Bakken had to dispose of 268 million barrels of by-product wastewater in just the first half of the year. I have spoken to a few people in the industry, and the estimate is that it cost approximately $4 a barrel to gather, transport and dispose of this wastewater. Which means, the shale companies will have to pay an estimated $2.2 billion just to get rid of their wastewater this year.
Now, some companies may be recycling their wastewater, but this isn’t free. Actually, I have seen estimates that it cost more money to recycle wastewater than it does to simply dispose of it.
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