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Converse County could see its first water recycling facility next year.

“It’s something that the commissioners and companies and just people on the street have been talking about for quite a while,” Converse County Commissioner Jim Willox said. “I think the buzz is (Devon) is the first one ready to step up and say, ‘We’re going to build the facility necessary to do it . . . It’s the first commercial-scale recycling of produced water.’”

While plans for the project are not finalized, two Devon officials presented the proposed facility to the county commissioners Sept. 5. If Devon decides to proceed with the project, they estimate they could begin recycling water by the second quarter of 2019.

The facility would be located on a private road 8 miles southwest of Bill. When operational, it would be heavily automated and require only one or two employees.

The new facility would be recycling produced water, which is the water extracted along with oil in the hydraulic fracking process. When it’s not recycled, produced water is essentially useless and has to be disposed of carefully and safely, typically by injecting it below ground or evaporating it in open air pits. Recycling is preferable because it helps reduce the huge quantities of water required for fracking. A well can require between 6 and 24 acre-feet of water per year to frack, or between 2 and 8 million gallons.

Devon already has a produced water pipeline running to the site, but would also truck out wastewater.

After the initial construction, Devon officials said the facility will have an output of approximately 5,000 barrels per day.

“The current planned rate of 5,000 barrels per day can be scaled up if needed,” Devon spokesman Tim Hartley said. Devon will use all of the recycled water for its own operations.

Willox noted that the proposal of a new facility indicates that water recycling is now economically feasible in the county.

“It’s nice to see a company that’s making an economically and environmentally good decision to recycle more of the water,” Willox said. “Reusing water is a positive thing for everybody.”

With Converse County expecting thousands of new wells in the coming years, requiring thousands of acre-feet of water, more water recycling facilities could be on the way, as indicated by oil and gas operators’ comments in the Bureau of Land Management’s draft EIS and statements from Willox in the past.

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