Subsurface disposal of salt water coproduced with oil and gas has become a critical issue in the United States because of linkages with induced seismicity, as seen in Oklahoma and northcentral Texas. Here, we assess the spatiotemporal and stratigraphic variations of salt-water disposal (SWD) volumes in the Permian Basin. The results of this analysis provide critical input into integrated assessments needed for handling of produced water and for emerging concerns, such as induced seismicity.

Wellbore architecture, permits, and disposal volumes were compiled, interpreted for disposal intervals and geologic targets, and summarized at formation, subregion, a 100-mi2 (260-km2) area, and monthly volumes for the years 1978–2016. Geologic targets were interpreted by intersecting the disposal intervals with gridded stratigraphic horizons and by reviewing well logs where available.

A total of 30 billion bbl (∼5 trillion L) were disposed into 73 geologic units within 6 subregions via 8201 active SWD wells for 39 yr. Most disposal occurred in the Midland Basin and Central Basin Platform (CBP) over the first 34 yr but shifted from the CBP to the Delaware Basin over the last 5 yr (2011–2016) with the expansion of unconventional oil and gas production. Approximately half of the salt water is disposed above the major unconventional reservoirs into Guadalupian-aged formations, raising concerns of overpressuring and interference with production. Operators are exploring deeper SWD targets; however, proximity to crystalline basement poses concerns for high drilling costs and the potential for induced seismicity by reactivation of deep-seated faults.

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