Hydraulic Fracturing Water Use Variability in the United States and Potential Environmental Implications

Water Resources Research (Accepted manuscript online: June 16, 2015) / by Tanya J. Gallegos, et al.

[From an Energy Wire article by Pamela King, sub. req’d] Using production data from IHS Inc., USGS determined that the volume of water injected during hydraulic fracturing varies widely depending on the target reservoir, hydrocarbon type and well structure. Between 2000 and 2014, median water use for individual horizontal wells rose from 15,275 to 19,425 cubic meters, according to the paper, which has been accepted for publication in Water Resources Research. Vertical and directional wells, which constitute 42 percent of wells, each required less than 2,600 cubic meters of water…

Key Points:
• A national-scale map of water volumes used to hydraulically fracture wells, 2011 – August 2014
• Water injected during hydraulic fracturing differs depending on the target reservoir, hydrocarbon type, and well configuration
• The differences in the potential for environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing due to regional variations in water use in different geologic basin s are discussed
[Abstract] Until now, up-to-date, comprehensive, spatial, national-scale data on hydraulic fracturing water volumes have been lacking. Water volumes used to hydraulically fracture over 263,859 oil and gas wells drilled between 2000 and 2014 were compiled and used to create the first U.S. map of hydraulic fracturing water use. Further analysis of these data shows that although 15,275 m 3 and 19,425 m3 of water was used to hydraulically fracture individual horizon tal oil and gas wells,
respectively, in 2014, about 42 percent of wells were actually either vertical or directional, which required less than 2,600 m3 water per well. The highest a verage hydraulic fracturing water usage (10,000−36,620 m3 per well) in watersheds across the United States was correlated with shale gas areas (versus coalbed methane, tight oil, or tight gas) where the greatest proportion of hydraulically fractured wells were horizontally drilled, reflecting that the natural reservoir properties influence water use. This analysis also demonstrates that many oil and gas resources within a given basin are develope
d using a mix of horizontal, vertical and some directional wells, explaining why large volume hydraulic fracturing water usage is not widespread. This spatial variability in hydraulic fracturing water use relates to the potential for environmental impacts such as water availability, water quality, wastewater disposal, and possible wastewater injection-induced earthquakes.

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