Energy companies warned about water availability

HOUSTON — Water may be everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s becoming increasingly scarce in many areas where oil and gas is produced.

So energy companies must start looking at water as an asset, Emmanuel Garland, an environmental expert for Total Exploration, told an Offshore Technology Conference audience Tuesday.

“Water is already a crucial issue and will shape the future,” he said.

Garland said water already accounts for up to 25 percent of project costs. Energy companies consume a significant amount of water for drilling and cooling, among other uses.

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At the same time, there is less water available because of ever-swelling population, worsening water quality and a changing climate. The National Climate Assessment released Tuesday by the Obama administration showed that the Gulf Coast is especially vulnerable to higher temperatures and decreased availability of water.

Moving forward, companies must limit consumption, increase reuse of wastewater and reduce the impact of discharges on the environment, Garland said.

“It must be addressed upfront,” he said, because in the future a locally-issued license to operate likely will depend on a company’s demonstrated ability to conserve and reuse water.

Garland acknowledged that the key hurdle to companies increasing reuse is cost.

“You can treat almost any water for humans to drink,” he said. “But it costs more.”

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