Map: Competition for Water in U.S. Shale Energy DevelopmentNew Data: Water Use In Hydraulic Fracturing A Key Risk In Water-Stressed Regions In Texas And Colorado
Water Use Per Well Doubles Even as Production Declines, Increasing Wastewater Disposal Risks
New Ceres research, released recently via an interactive map, shows that 57 percent of hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells over the past five years were in regions of high water competition, particularly in Texas and Colorado, creating significant long-term water sourcing risks for communities, companies operating in these regions, and their investors.
“Even with the slowdown in oil and gas production, hydraulic fracturing is potentially heightening the competition for water resources in many of the country’s most water-stressed regions,” said Monika Freyman, director, Investor Initiative, Water Program at the nonprofit sustainability group Ceres, who led the water use research effort. “Oil and gas companies face increasing water risks in key basins, and investors and banks financing this activity should be pressing harder on their strategies for managing these water risks.”
Chesapeake, EOG Resources and Anadarko Petroleum were the biggest water users overall, while Pioneer Natural Resources and Encana were especially active in regions with extremely high water stress.
The top three plays by water use were the Eagle Ford, Marcellus and Midland Plays, with the Eagle Ford and Midland Plays being of particular concern given both their high water use and exposure to high water stress, drought and declining groundwater supplies. Weld County, Colorado saw the highest number of wells drilled (almost 7,000 wells) and water used for fracking (more than 16 billion gallons) of any county in the United States.
In the Piceance Basin, out of five counties Garfield County consumes the most water for fracking and is among the top ten counties in the U.S. for water use and stress.
Water used for oil & gas drilling is consumptive water use. “Consumptive water use is water removed from available supplies without return to a water resource system (e.g., water used in manufacturing, agriculture, and food preparation that is not returned to a stream, river, or water treatment plant).”
The analysis, which aggregates data by shale play and by operator, is based on water use data from 109,665 oil and gas wells reported to FracFocus.org from January 2011 through January 2016 and water stress indicator maps developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI). (Extreme high water stress regions, as defined by WRI, are areas where 80 percent of available surface and groundwater are already allocated to municipal, industrial and agricultural users.)
“Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction, which used to be “unconventional”, is now a part of most conventional energy company portfolios in the U.S. and Canada. This has made water management a critical liability or competitive advantage for companies and their investors,” said Steven Heim, managing director for Boston Common Asset Management. “Ceres’s update provides investors useful data to reassess companies on their water risk exposure.”
The large volumes of wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing that must be managed at the surface and ultimately disposed of in underground deep well injection sites are a significant and growing issue at the local level. These wastewater injections have been linked to surface and groundwater contamination events, as well as to earthquakes with Oklahoma limiting access to some disposal wells.
Other Key Findings:
- Fracking-related water use from January 2011 to January 2016 was 358 billion gallons, equivalent to the water needs of 200 mid-sized U.S. cities.
- The data show that while overall fracking-related water use peaked in 2014, average water use per well has doubled since 2013, from 2.6 million gallons per well to 5.3 million gallons per well at the end of January 2016. This is likely due to longer lateral pipelines and drill site activity.
- Local communities at the epicenter of fracking are hardest hit by water demands for fracking activities. In seven of the top 10 counties, annual water use for hydraulic fracturing reached over 100% of each county’s domestic water use.
This is an update to Ceres’ 2014 report Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Stress: Water Demand by the Numbers.
Source: Ceres with additional local data added
A study released in Science Advances Wednesday finds strong evidence for severe, long-term droughts afflicting the American Southwest, driven by climate change. A megadrought lasting decades is 99 percent certain to hit the region this century, said scientists from Cornell University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
“Historically, megadroughts were extremely rare phenomena occurring only once or twice per millennium,” the report states. “According to our analysis of modeled responses to increased GHGs, these events could become commonplace if climate change goes unabated.”
Rising temperatures will combine with decreased rainfall in the Southwest to create droughts that will be worse than the historic “Dust Bowl” of the 20th century and last far longer …
Fracking Our Future is the first report to provide a comprehensive measure of water and community health impacts from hydraulic fracturing in Colorado.
This timely report addresses the questions, “How much water is required for new production, such as through the process of hydraulic fracturing, and where will that water come from?” Colorado is a semi-arid state with limited water resources that must be shared by a wide variety of water users. Western Resource Advocates (WRA) — along with communities, businesses, institutions, and citizens throughout the state — have concerns about water needs for oil and gas development and the potential impacts and tradeoffs that must be addressed.
In addition, the report provides specific conservation and safety recommendations that decision-makers can use in creating policies to make sure that Colorado’s water resources are properly managed along with oil and gas development.