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How quickly do oil and gas wells “Water Out”? Quantifying and contrasting water production trends

February 19, 2024

Water production from petroleum (oil and natural gas) wells is a topic of increasing environmental and economic importance, yet quantification efforts have been limited to date, and patterns between and within petroleum plays are largely unscrutinized. Additionally, classification of reservoirs as “unconventional” (also known as “continuous”) carries scientific and regulatory importance, but in some cases the distinction from "conventional" wells is unclear. Using water, oil, and gas production data, we calculated a set of quantitative metrics that elucidate trends in the water-to-petroleum ratio over the life of each producing well. The percent growth of the water-to-petroleum ratio quantifies the degree to which a well “waters out” over time; values calculated for 153,900 wells in 18 oil and gas plays show generally much higher values for conventional wells than for continuous/unconventional wells. Analysis of the percent growth along with the slope and median metrics reveals greater variation between conventional plays and between continuous (unconventional) plays than previously recognized. Further, an example from the Bakken Formation in the Williston Basin, USA, illustrates that, within a single play, the metrics provide insight into spatial variation of water production trends, as influenced by geology and reservoir characteristics. By quantifying the variability of water production trends within individual plays and between plays, including differences between conventional and continuous (unconventional) plays, these results provide a more nuanced view of water production from oil and gas wells than has previously been possible and they illustrate the degree to which water management considerations vary spatially and temporally.

Publication Year 2024
Title How quickly do oil and gas wells “Water Out”? Quantifying and contrasting water production trends
DOI 10.1007/s11053-024-10308-6
Authors Seth S. Haines, Brian A. Varela, Marilyn Tennyson, Nicholas J. Gianoutsos
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Natural Resources Research
Index ID 70251686
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Energy Resources Science Center