The water-energy nexus is a hot topic in Texas this week as water and energy experts gather alongside industry leaders at the Water & Energy Conference in Houston. Experts will discuss water sourcing and management for industry, energy and growth.

By: James Dwyer, CH2M HILL Senior Water Resource Engineer

James Dwyer will participate on a panel “The shale revolution and water scarcity in Texas: how will it add up for thermo power generation?” on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 9:45 a.m. during the Water & Energy 2013: Looking Beyond the Shales conference in Houston, TX, sponsored by Global Water Intelligence and WestWater Research.

Water and power issues are becoming increasingly prominent in Texas, and this week, one of the big topics attendees are interested in addressing is the Texas Water-Energy Nexus and how it will impact the petrochemical industry and thermo power generation.

Water plays a vital role in producing energy, and over the next two decades, the energy sector is expected to account for 85% of the growth in U.S. water demand. Given that extended periods of drought have left Texas strapped for water, it is important for Texas industries to identify effective strategies for water sourcing and management to support economic development.

Historically, oil and gas has been a large economic driver for Texas. More recently petrochemical plants and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals are driving the economic boom and increasing the demand for power in Texas; however, without water, there is no power.

As the Texas shale boom continues to affect the economics and infrastructure strategies in the thermal energy sector, there are options, choices and trade-offs involved in thermo power generation.                   

Hydraulic fracturing in the Eagle Ford Shale and various strata in the Permian Basin of Texas requires tremendous amounts of water—something these two locations lack, with nearby water reservoirs barely 30 percent full according to Water Data for Texas. Texas industries are competing for the available fresh groundwater supplies and need more effective solutions to manage the state’s limited water resources.

While drilling activities have seen a surge in natural gas supplies, lowering prices more than 30 percent over the last two years, unreliable water supplies often stop an otherwise feasible power plant project.

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To continue development of strategic energy resources required by the U.S. and electrical power capacity crucial for the economic juggernaut that is Texas, I recommend taking a three pronged approach to the challenge.

1) Reduce reliance on new water in well completion activities by increasing flowback and produced water recycling and transitioning to other fluids for hydraulic fracturing

2) Maximize freshwater recovery from cooling water blowdown

3) Develop new supplies by conjunctive management of surface and groundwater; and store surface water in depleted aquifers to eliminate evaporation losses (which can approach 50 percent of annual reservoir yields in West Texas)

CH2M HILL Vice President Samir Dave will also be moderating the panel, “Water Management and the Petrochemicals Industry in Texas” on Wednesday, Sept. 25. Experts will discuss how successful petrochemicals manufacturers faced the challenge of operating in a water stressed region and share best practices for establishing an effective and successful business model for the future. As they discuss what the water-energy connection means for the petrochemical industry in Texas, share your insights on CH2M HILL’s Access Water Facebook page.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Mr. Dwyer has worked more than 25 years as a water resources engineer with CH2M HILL. He has completed numerous wellfield, wellhead protection, and injection well projects throughout the U.S. and specializes in aquifer storage/recovery. While most of his desal supply work has been in Florida, he has constructed brackish supply wells in South Texas and has evaluated desalination supplies in all major aquifers in Texas. Mr. Dwyer has completed water supply evaluations for thermoelectric projects in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana.