Trading Water for Fuel is Fracking Crazy

Nearly half (47 percent) of oil and gas wells recently hydraulically fractured in the U.S. are in regions with high or extremely high water stress.

A recent study by Ceres shows that fracking is “using enormous amounts of water in areas that can scarcely afford it. The report notes that close to half the oil and gas wells recently fracked in the U.S. ‘are in regions with high or extremely high water stress’ and more than 55 percent are in areas experiencing drought,” according to EcoWatch.

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  • Will Franklin

    It takes about 0.6 to 1.8 gallons of water to produce enough natural
    gas to generate a million British thermal units of energy (Btu).

    Coal mining and washing took 1 to 8 gallons of water to generate the
    same amount of energy – about the same amount used for U.S. onshore oil

    Nuclear power consumed about 10 gallons of water for a million Btu
    and creating ethanol from corn requires an astonishing 1,000 gallons of
    water on average to produce the equivalent amount of energy. This is all from a Harvard study:

    Lawns and other seemingly innocuous activities use far more water than fracking. Indeed, new studies have shown that fracking uses a tiny percentage of total water used in regions where it is common:

    From UT-Austin: “water saved by switching from coal to natural gas is 25 to 50 times greater than the amount of water used in fracking to extract the shale
    gas in the first place.”

    So get some perspective, and stop using the word “wonk.” That’s a designation for others to assign.

    • embo66

      None of your points acknowledge the fact that fracking tends to be extremely concentrated in particular states and regions of the country. Meaning that consumption of water for fracking in those states and areas is beginning to create a serious drain on local water resources.

      In addition, fracking is occurring in some of the driest regions of the country (particularly Texas). They are dry naturally, and fracking only compounds the issue.

      • Will Franklin

        Actually, that’s not true. From the Time Science link I already provided:

        “The Texas State Water Board estimates that hydrofracking accounts for less than 1% of total water use, while providing more than 10% of the state’s total economic output.”

        More facts:

        “Ceres’ definition of areas with “high water stress” accounts only for the freshwater resources in those areas, completely ignoring brackish water resources. The Texas Water Development Board estimates that Texas is home to 880 TRILLION GALLONS of underground brackish water, much of it underneath the Eagle Ford region and the Permian Basin.”

        Not to mention that water is more expensive when it is scarce or has to be trucked in, which is why companies are already recycling water, using more brackish rather than fresh water, etc.

        It’s just not a serious drain on water resources. Municipal water pipe leaks are a far bigger stress on the water supply. And, again, if you look at water use compared to coal, nuclear, ethanol, or other electricity sources, the relatively low water use with natural gas is a bargain. You end up SAVING water by fracking.

        The reality is that fracked natural gas uses less land than other energy sources, uses less water than other energy sources, and has been almost solely responsible for helping the U.S. reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 8% while globally emissions are up 32%.

        • embo66

          Again, you continue to spout “grand totals” as though it were meaningful to the limited number of communities directly affected by fracking. There, the proportions are quite different.

          According to that same CERES study you dismiss: “Nearly half (47 percent) of the wells [nationwide] were developed in water basins with high or extremely high water stress. In Colorado, 92 percent of the 3,862 wells were in extremely high water stress areas. In Texas, which accounts for nearly half of the total number of wells analyzed, 5,891 of its 11,634 wells (51 percent) were in high or extremely high water stress areas. Extremely high water stress means over 80 percent of available water is already being withdrawn for municipal, industrial and agricultural uses.”

          If it were so much better (and certainly cheaper!!) to use brackish water, surely the entire industry would have moved to that long ago. BUT: Brackish water has more often than not been deemed unsuitable for fracking because “it contains more salts than freshwater does. It may also contain other elements
          like boron, which can harm the drilling process, and the reservoirs may be deeper and more expensive to tap … One engineer with ConocoPhillips told [Texas] lawmakers that drilling a deep well in the Eagle Ford Shale region could cost $1 million, versus perhaps $70,000 or $80,000 for a shallower well.” Gee, which well do you think the oil industry would prefer?

          It is true that, since water supply concerns have increased, frackers are indeed now looking for alternates, but so far the bulk of the water used
          nationwide has been fresh groundwater.

          My sources:

          Forbes would be inclined to downplay the risks to water supplies, as they tend to represent the wealthy who own oil companies, not the farmers, ranchers, and regular folk who have to live everyday next door to their drill sites. And their article reads almost exactly like this sales job from Exxon:

    • Charles Wolf

      Fracking uses what water it uses,
      but it also poisons whatever groundwater is nearby.

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