Managing water use and giving back to the environment including highlighting challenges, lessons, and best practices encountered when companies implement efforts to become better stewards of freshwater resources. Specific case studies related to Southwestern Energy’s “Freshwater Neutral” initiative achieved in 2016 within all operating divisions will be reviewed.
A small multi-discipline team evaluated all elements within the operational water life cycle, identifying cost-competitive ways to optimize the company’s freshwater usage. Key components were: 1) commitment from company leadership and support across all operations; 2) setting achievable, operational goals; 3) accounting for all water used; 4) applying new completion designs and technologies; 5) increasing the use of alternative, non-fresh water, and 6) supporting research in groundwater protection and water treatment technologies. This reduced freshwater requirements by up to 30% in some operating areas and saved the operator over $20 million US dollars.
Another component was required in order for companies to completely offset the need for their remaining freshwater use, the importance of investing in conservation projects to improve fresh water resources within basins where operations are occurring. Achieving a freshwater neutral status requires improvements in everyday work practices and a change in the mindset of water management. The practices implemented will allow for the use of alternative water sources whenever economically and operationally feasible, and the conservation projects have added value to local communities