External utilization of oil and gas produced water: Why is the industry hesitant to full-scale implementation?

Stella I. Eyitayo, Marshall C. Watson, Oladoyin Kolawole, Pei Xu, Robert Bruant, Lisa Henthorne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Over the last decade, there have been significant advancements in the different aspects of produced water (PW) management and disposal. These methods include internal application, surface discharge, subsurface discharge, and beneficial reuse (or external uses). While the petroleum industry is focused on using PW internally, the call for other external applications reverberates in agricultural, chemical, and manufacturing industries. Recently, beneficial reuse has gained momentum as a two-way solution for reusing treated PW instead. It promises to alleviate the use of freshwater, tackle drought, and reduce the amount of PW waste disposed of at the end of the process. Despite those mentioned earlier, the petroleum industry prefers using PW internally or discharging it into the subsurface. There seems to be a missing link between all the previously proposed recommendations about beneficial reuse and the actual execution of the external reuse of PW by the major stakeholders. This work provides a holistic account of the state of knowledge by incorporating the oil and gas perspectives and the challenges responsible for the gap in implementing external uses of PW as proposed as a solution to PW management. Based on life cycle assessment and life cycle cost methods, the challenges related to beneficial reuse are highlighted, and the reason for the hesitancy of the petroleum industry to venture into external solutions is presented. This work proposes progressive recommendations that provide insight into achieving long-term environmental sustainability by exploring external uses of PW and harnessing its merit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-108
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Beneficial reuse
  • Environmental footprint
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Saltwater disposal wells
  • Treated produced water


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