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GILLETTE, Wyo. -- The company drawing public and regulatory attention for its proposal to pump wastewater from an oil-and-natural gas field west of Casper into an aquifer on Tuesday rolled out part of its long-term plan to treat water from another 4,200-well project in the same location.

An Encana Oil and Gas official told a panel of Wyoming state lawmakers that his company will bring “sophisticated” water treatment technology to the Moneta Divide field 60 miles west of Casper soon, with construction starting late this summer.

The company still plans to inject water from the project into the Madison geologic formation; the plan unveiled Tuesday would treat additional water from existing wells and could be expanded later to meet the demands of the larger proposal.

In testimony before the state Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, company project lead Paul Ulrich said plans are moving forward to build an advanced reverse-osmosis treatment facility centrally located in the existing field, which includes about 280 wells.

The company is also considering building more facilities around the planned Moneta Divide expanded field, which could engulf about 265,000 acres between Casper and Shoshoni. At full build-out, the several facilities could treat as many as 900,000 barrels – or about 2.7 million gallons – of water every day.

The Moneta Divide expanded project is still under regulatory review and is due for first drilling sometime in 2015 or 2016.

“We’ve got to maintain a balance and several tools in our toolbox in water handling,” Ulrich said after the meeting. “Providing water back to the state of Wyoming is our best option and the state of Wyoming’s best option.”

All produced water going through the system would be subjected to reverse osmosis – a purification technique in which the water passes through a membrane. The water would be restored to what the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality calls “Class I” status – basically, water suitable for domestic use. It would then be pumped into a central collection system, through a pipeline and into the Boysen Reservoir west of Shoshoni.

Ulrich said the plan will take “millions and millions of dollars” of initial capital investment and the facility will be “one of the first of its kind in the lower 48” states.

Encana earlier this year proposed injecting about 25,000 barrels of produced water daily into the massive Madison geologic formation, which runs beneath much of Wyoming and other states. At the Moneta field, the formation is about 15,000 feet underground.

The state DEQ at first opposed the plan, but backed off its position after the company provided the agency with more details. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission finally approved the plan in March, despite concerns from two geologists on its board.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awaiting more information before it gives its final stamp of approval. Ulrich said Encana is working to answer all of the EPA’s questions.

Although the treatment facility – or facilities – will be the main water-handling tool at the Moneta Divide in the future, Ulrich said Encana also plans to use underground water injection and evaporating ponds. He said the water plan is the best fit for his company, despite its cost.

“Encana is invested in Wyoming and Wyoming’s water issues,” he said. “We’re excited to demonstrate the capabilities we can bring to the state of Wyoming.”

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