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Estimates of water use associated with continuous oil and gas development in the Permian Basin, Texas and New Mexico, 2010–19, with comparisons to the Williston Basin, North Dakota and Montana

October 27, 2021

The Permian Basin, in west Texas and southeastern New Mexico is one of the largest conventional oil and gas reservoirs in the United States and is becoming one of the world’s largest continuous oil and gas (COG) reservoirs. Advances in technology have enabled oil and gas to be extracted from reservoirs that historically were developed using conventional, or vertical, well drilling techniques. Conventional oil and gas reservoirs have discrete deposits that are well defined and are typically trapped by an overlying geologic formation or caprock, whereas COG reservoirs contain deposits that are distributed evenly throughout the geologic formation, typically have much lower permeability (the capacity of a porous rock to transmit a fluid) than the con­ventional deposits, and require specialized horizontal extraction techniques. The methods to extract the oil from the two different reservoirs require differing amounts of water, and the horizontal extraction methods typically require substantially more water. In 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey started a topical study to quantify water used during COG development. The Permian Basin, which contains both types of reservoirs (continuous and conventional), was the second basin in the United States in the U.S. Geological Survey’s topical study to quantify water used during COG development.