Produced Water Management in Offshore Gulf of Mexico

Mukul M. Sharma

In offshore operations, topside equipment for produced water handling adds an enormous cost. It is imperative that we find cost effective solutions for treating this water in an environmentally benign manner. Seafloor separation coupled with sub-surface injection of produced water for waterflooding to recover additional oil is an excellent disposal strategy for the produced water that achieves three important goals:

  • It minimizes the cost of treating the produced water.
  • It disposes of the water in a cost effective and environmentally benign manner.
  • It also provides a valuable resource to recover additional oil by water flooding.

There are however, a few technological challenges in implementing this cost effective strategy for treatment of produced water offshore:

  • To ensure sustainable injection over long periods of time without costly workovers, it is important to develop reliable tools to predict injector performance with the water quality associated with subsea separation. In order to maintain the desired flow rates economically, injectors are often fractured, either deliberately or unintentionally. Models to predict the fracture growth, especially in the unconsolidated sands that are commonly encountered in the offshore Gulf of Mexico are essential.
  • When the subsurface injection is used for waterfloods, the impact of growing injection well fractures on the performance of injectors and on waterfloods needs to be studied before such a technique can be effectively applied. Current state of the art simulators cannot simulate dynamically growing fractures in injection wells.

This proposal aims to address the above issues thereby providing essential tools for implementing cost effective strategies for produced water handling and treatment in offshore operations. Technological advances related to the growth of fractures in water injection wells needs to be made so that proper reservoir management and adequate environmental protection can be achieved when such injectors are used.

Different options for separating and cleaning the water need be evaluated (sub-sea versus platform) to minimize the cost of utilizing the produced water. The impact of produced water quality and treatment before injection, therefore, need to be carefully evaluated. Strategies need to be developed for utilizing the fractures that are created in these injection wells and as such simulation tools need to be developed that allow us to simulate the effect of growing injection well fractures in oil recovery processes.

Sponsoring Organizations

  1. The University of Texas at Austin
  2. Chevron


Mukul M. Sharma
Center for Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering
1 University Station C0304
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712-0228
Phone: (512) 471-3257 FAX: (512) 471-9605

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