Alliance strives to connect businesses for beneficial use of water
Produced water from oil and gas activity is a challenge energy companies have grappled with for years. At the same time, farmers and ranchers across the West are often said to be only a few drought years away from major business impacts.
“On the right hand, we have the culture of agriculture,” says Marvin Nash, owner of Encore Green, LLC, “and one the left hand, we have industry in oil and gas. Our goal is to create a relationship between the two that is beneficial for both.”
Focused on water
After working as a rodeo clown and then as an anti-bullying advocate in schools for many years, Nash worked for an oil and gas company in charge of logistics and cost control.
“One of the cost-control components was disposable water. I dealt with a lot of disposals, and we paid a lot to get rid of the water,” he says. “One guy told me that if we could figure out how to repurpose or reuse the water, we wouldn’t have to build new ponds, which would reduce our costs.”
Then, Nash’s wheels started spinning, and he says, “We have to be smarter about how we used produced water.”
Nash looked at coalbed methane and the challenges associated with that industry and water use, noting a good solution still had to be available.
He teamed up with long-time friend Jeff Holder from California to find a solution.
The result was a company called Encore Green, LLC, which utilizes a mobile unit to clean water to be reused by farmers and ranchers.
Nash and his wife took their life savings to start the business, which utilizes proprietary data tracking and quality control software to maintain costs, quality and efficiency for water to ensure it can be beneficially used.
“We are an ag company that serves the energy community by transforming produced byproduct water into water for beneficial use in agriculture,” Nash explains. “The result is that oil moves, crops grow, landowners prosper, livestock graze, water is saved and the environment is better for it.”
Despite the success of Encore Green, Nash saw the need for more.
Specifically, he says, “When I was working in oil and gas, I talked with a number of companies at their corporate offices. I realized the key to making everything work with oil and gas and reclamation was communication.”
Nash continues, “I don’t care whether we’re working sheep with a dog or sorting cattle with our family and neighbors, we have to communicate to get the job done. I know that concept could be applied to produced water.”
Holder, who’s talent comes in communication, teamed up with Nash to develop a strategy to help make the connection between landowners and oil and gas companies where water is concerned.
The organization, called the Beneficial-Use Water Alliance (BUWA), works to pair oil and gas companies with a nuisance product – produced water – with landowners who can utilize that water.
“I believe, if we could link ranchers to participate in that process, then there could be untapped revenue in that water,” Nash comments. “It all comes back to communication.”
Holder notes one theme in all of Nash’s experiences was identifying a common goal between landowners and oil and gas companies.
“Part of the success of Encore Green has been in bringing a lot of different people to one place with the common of goal of figuring out what we can do with produced water,” Holder says. “The hardest part is to get people to come together and think differently about the problem.”
Holder and Nash both emphasize BUWA doesn’t center around a particular technology or a particular solution for produced water. Rather, they note each solution is unique.
“BUWA hopes to approach this problem definitely to see how we all can win,” Holder comments, noting their strategy looks to make sure there isn’t a loser. “We’re trying to be matchmakers and put people together who normally wouldn’t talk.”
For example, if a landowner in an area where oil and gas production is prevalent needs water, BUWA may be able to find a company that has water available and vice versa.
“We want to be a tangible resource that connects people who are trying to accomplish certain goals,” Holder adds. “Each company knows what they do, but not necessarily what the other people or companies do. BUWA puts these people together.”
He continues, “We want to build a community to think about these problems differently.”
BUWA strives to work with parties of varying interests to change the mindset regarding the problem of produced water.
“The industry has a choice of what to do with their water,” Holder says. “If the choice doesn’t hurt and only helps people involved, it’s better for everyone to put the water to beneficial use. Ag can help oil and gas to achieve better use.”
Nash adds, “This is a vision and a thought process that looks at the whole picture. This is a win-win-win-win model.”
Because there is no one-size-fits-all solution for using produced water beneficially, Holder and Nash note concerns about water transport, cleaning by-products and more can be addressed on an individual basis, but the unifying factor is that the least cost and most beneficial strategy comes from centrally locating solutions around the land.
“Every question is a fair question. The big challenge is working together for a good, common sense solution,” Nash comments. “BUWA is an all-inclusive way to figure out where the problem lies and how we connect the dots between ag and energy production.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.