Oil and gas produced waters fail to meet beneficial reuse recommendations for use as dust suppressants

James Farnan, Andrew Eck, Andrew Kearney, Frank L. Dorman, Hassan Ismail, Eric Chase, Xiaofeng Liu, Nathaniel R. Warner, William D. Burgos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Produced water from conventional oil and gas wells (O&G PW) is beneficially reused as an inexpensive alternative to commercial dust suppressants which minimize inhalable particulate matter (PM10) from unpaved roads. The efficacy and environmental impacts of using O&G PW instead of commercial products have not been extensively investigated, although O&G PW has been used for dust suppression for decades and often has elevated concentrations of environmental pollutants. In this study, the effectiveness of O&G PW is compared to commercial products under variable humidity conditions by measuring total generated PM10 emissions from treated road aggregate discs. To measure environmental impacts, model roadbeds were treated with six O&G PW and commercial products then subjected to a simulated two-year, 24-h storm event. Generated runoff water was collected and characterized. In efficacy studies, O&G PW offered variable dust reduction (10–85 %) compared to rainwater controls under high humidity (50 %) conditions but performed similarly or worse than controls when humidity was low (20 %). Conversely, all but two commercial products reduced dust emissions by over 90 % regardless of humidity. In rainfall-runoff experiments, roads treated with O&G PWs and CaCl2 Brine generated runoff that was hypersaline, indicating that mobilization of soluble salts could contribute to freshwater salinization. Though most runoff concentrations were highest from roadbeds treated with CaCl2 Brine, runoff from roadbeds treated with O&G PW had the highest concentrations of combined radium (83.6 pCi/L), sodium (3560 mg/L), and suspended solids (5330 mg/L). High sodium concentrations likely dispersed clay particles, which increased road mass loss by 47.2 kg solids/km/storm event compared to rainwater controls. Roadbeds treated with CaCl2 Brine, which had low sodium concentrations, reduced solid road mass loss by 98.1 kg solids/km/storm event. Based on this study, O&G PW do not perform as well as commercial products and pose unique risks to environmental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number170807
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 1 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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