Environmental Management

, 20:143 | Cite as

Discharge of oilfield-produced water in nueces bay, texas: A case study

  • Claude D’Unger
  • Duane Chapman
  • R. Scott Carr
Environmental Auditing


During oil and gas production, water is often extracted from geological formations along with the hydrocarbons. These “produced waters” have been discharged to Nueces Bay since the turn of the century. These effluents were found to be highly toxic, and sediments in the vicinity of the discharges were also toxic. We developed a map of wells and produced-water discharge sites in the vicinity of Nueces Bay and identified numerous unplugged wells suitable for conversion to produced water disposal wells. An economic analysis of conversion to subterranean injection of produced water indicates that most of the wells currently in production could pay out the cost of conversion to injection in one to three years. The use of one injection well for two or more water-producing wells could yield greater savings. Wells that could not support the cost of injection are small producers, and their loss would not constitute a major loss of jobs or dollars to the area. This study could serve as a useful model for evaluating the economic feasibility of conversion to injection in other areas of Texas and Louisiana.

Key Words

Oilfield-produced water Subterranean injection Petroleum brine Sea urchins Oilfield waste Toxicity testing 

Literature Cited

  1. Armstrong H. W., K., Fucik, J. W. Anderson, and J. M. Neff. 1979. Effects of oilfield brine effluent on sediments and benthic organisms in Trinity Bay, Texas. Marine Environ mental Research 2:55–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreasen, J. K., and R. W. Spears. 1983. Toxicity of Texan petroelum well brine to the sheepshead minnow ( Cyprinodon variegatus), a common estuarine fish. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 30:277–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boesch, D. F., and N. N. Rabalais. 1989. Produced waters in sensitive coastal habitats: An analysis of impacts, central coastal Gulf of Mexico. OCS Report/MMS 89-0031, US Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Regional Office. New Orleans, Louisiana, 157 pp.Google Scholar
  4. Carr. R. S. 1993. Sediment quality assessment survey of the Galveston Bay svstem. Galveston Bay National Estuary Program report, GBNEP-30, 101 pp.Google Scholar
  5. Carr, R. S., and D. C. Chapman. 1992. Comparison of solid-phase and pore-water approaches for assessing the quality of marine and estuarine sediments. Chemistry and Ecology 7:19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caudle, C. 1995. Impact assessment of produced water discharges to Nueces Bay—August 1993. Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, Austin, Texas. Publication no. AS-49/SR. 30 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Collins, A. G. 1975. Geochemistry of oilfield waters. Elsevier Scientific Publishing, Amsterdam, 496 pp.Google Scholar
  8. Daniels, C. B., and J. C. Means. 1989. Assessment of the geno-toxicity of produced water discharges associated with oil and gas production using a fish embryo and larval test. Marine Environmental Research 28:303–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Din, Z. B., and A. B. Abu. 1993. Toxicity of produced water from crude oil terminals to Photobacterium phosphoreum, Chae-toceros sp., and Donax faba. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 50:413–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dwights. 1992a. Dwights natural gas well production histories. Dwights, Richardson, Texas, 1968 pp.Google Scholar
  11. Dwights. 1992b. Dwights oil lease production histories. Dwights, Richardson, Texas, 1970 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Hamilton, M. A., R. C. Russo, and R. V. Thurston. 1977. Trimmed Spearman-Karber method for estimating median lethal concentrations in toxicity bioassays. Environmental Science and Tcchnolgoy 11(7):714–719; correction 12(4):417 (1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Henley, D. E., and D. G. Rauschuber. 1981. Freshwater needs of fish and wildlife resources in the Nueces-Corpus Christi Bay area, Texas: A literature synthesis. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services. Washington, DC, FWS/ OBS-80/10, 410 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Inside F.E.R.C. 1993/1994. Gas Market Report. April 1993 through May 1994 issues. McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  15. Krause, P. R., C. W. Osenberg, and R. J. Schmitt. 1992. Effects of produced water on early life stages of a sea urchin: Stage-specific responses and delayed expression. Pages 431-444 in J. P. Ray and F. R. Englehardt (eds.), Produced water: Technological/environmental issues and solutions. Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Morgan, B. J. T. 1992. Analysis of quantal response data. Chapman and Hall, London, 511 pp.Google Scholar
  17. Pratt, W. E., and D. W. Johnson. 1926. Local subsidence of the Goose Creek oil field. Journal of Geology 7:577–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Railroad Commission of Texas. 1953. Special order permitting Renwar Oil Corporation to use salt water injection. Proposes its own unit No. 1 well no. 23, Turkey Creek Field, Nueces County, Texas. Hearing #4-25,756, Oil and Gas Docket No. 129. Austin, Texas, 1 p.Google Scholar
  19. Railroad Commission of Texas. 1991. Oil and Gas Division annual report to the governor, vol II, 394 pp.Google Scholar
  20. Railroad Commission of Texas. 1992. Hearing docket number 4-69,651 Oil and Gas Division, Railroad Commission of Texas, Austin, Texas.Google Scholar
  21. Railroad Commission of Texas. 1993. Permit to dispose of non-hazardous oil and gas waste by injection into a porous formation not productive of oil and gas. Permit No. 09802. Oil and Gas Division, Railroad Commission of Texas, Austin, TexasGoogle Scholar
  22. Roach, R. W., R. S. Carr, C. L. Howard, and B. W. Cain. 1993. An assessment of produced water impacts in the Galveston Bay system. US Fish and Wildlife Service Report, Houston, Texas, 56 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Williams, R. W., and C. J. Meyers. 1991. Manual of oil and gas terms. Matthew Bender, New York, 1368 pp.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claude D’Unger
    • 1
  • Duane Chapman
    • 2
  • R. Scott Carr
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Science ProgramCenter for Sciences Texas A&M University-Corpus ChristiCorpus ChristiUSA
  2. 2.National Biological ServiceCampus Box 315, TAMU-CCCorpus ChristiUSA

Personalised recommendations