Energy companies are asked to control their own narrative when it comes to their ESG initiatives.

ESG (environment, social and governance) initiatives are not new to the oil and gas industry.

“We’ve been applying these principles since before they became an acronym — or a weaponized issue,” said Joe de Almeida, director, water strategy and technology at Occidental Petroleum.

Speaking on a roundtable at the Produced Water Society Permian Basin conference this week, he said water was not an issue for the industry until the hydraulic fracturing boom hit in 2010. At that time, he said, growers used a lot of fresh water. – which was of interest to society – because fracs required fresh water.

Over time, he said, the industry has gotten smarter and evolved from using fresh water to smooth fracking that can use produced water. Today, industry is looking for ways to use this produced water for beneficial purposes.

Sharlene Leuring, executive director of Texas Water Trade, said her organization examines all forms of water and water use and that finding new sources of water is vital for Texas. She cited a growing Texas population and climate change leading to more drought, which means any available water will be less fresh.

There is a need to understand “how produced water can offset surface water demand, and the dedication and reuse of water for more appropriate end users,” she said.

She encouraged everyone to start thinking about what beneficial reuse means.

John Durand, president and chief sustainability officer at XRI Holdings, said in 2019 his water midstream business transitioned from using its 400-mile Permian Basin infrastructure for water distribution to the addition of recycling services. His business processes one million barrels of water a day and he expects that to grow to 5.5 million barrels by 2025.

Kylie Wright, technical content and product manager at B3 Insight, predicted that brackish water will be the next source of water for human use.

Companies need to be more consistent in how they track fresh versus brackish water use, she said.

De Almeida warned that ESG initiatives could become suffocating if care is not taken.

“No matter where some of the environmental groups try to push us – beyond what benefits society – we as an industry have a responsibility to do the right thing,” he said. . “We are already doing what needs to be done. No one asked us to be more responsible. There were concerns about the use of fresh water early in fracking and we migrated away from that.

But, he said, the industry needs to do more.

Durand said the industry shouldn’t be afraid to spread the word about what it’s doing to conserve fresh water and protect the environment.

Mark Patton, president of Hydrozonix, agreed, but said: “The way the message is delivered, there’s a public outcry every time the industry says anything. There is a more than 90% reduction in emissions every time a pipeline sinks into the ground due to the removal of trucks from the road. But pipelines are considered bad. There are a lot of positive things we do that we don’t talk about because of public outcry. We need to be open and present the facts.

He said it was important for the industry to start defining its own narrative as a step back towards weaponized ESG.