The amount of water used per well for hydraulic fracturing surged by up to 770 percent between 2011 and 2016 in all major U.S. shale gas and oil production regions, a new study finds. The volume of brine-laden wastewater that fracked oil and gas wells generated during their first year of production also increased by up to 1440 percent during the same period, the study shows. If this rapid intensification continues, fracking's water footprint could grow by up to 50-fold in some regions by the year 2030 -- raising concerns about its sustainability, particularly in arid or semi-arid regions in Western states, or other areas where groundwater supplies are stressed or limited. To conduct the study, researchers collected and analyzed six years of data on water use and natural gas, oil and wastewater production from industry, government and nonprofit sources for more than 12,000 individual wells located in all major U.S. shale gas and tight oil producing regions. Then they used these historical data to model future water use and first-year wastewater volumes under two different scenarios. The models showed that if current low oil and gas prices rise and production again reaches levels seen during fracking's heyday in the early 2010s, cumulative water use and wastewater volumes could surge by up to 50-fold in unconventional gas-producing regions by 2030, and by up to 20-fold in unconventional oil-producing regions.
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