How much water is used in a typical hydraulic fracturing operation?
The drilling and hydraulic fracturing of a horizontal shale gas well typically require 2 to 4 million gallons of water. It’s worth noting that the water volume needed varies substantially between wells, and the water volume needed per foot of wellbore is decreasing as technologies and methods improve over time.
While the water volumes needed to drill and stimulate shale gas wells are large, they generally represent only a small percentage of the total water resources used in shale gas basins or “plays.” Calculations indicate that water use during hydraulic fracturing ranges from less than 0.1 percent to 0.8 percent of total water use, depending on the basin.
For example, Pennsylvania uses about 8 to 10 million gallons of water per day for Marcellus Shale drilling, but that represents only 0.1 percent of the 9.5 billion gallons of water the state uses daily. In Colorado, fracking consumed less than one tenth of a percent of the water used in the state in 2010.
Securing water supplies—while protecting water resources—remains a significant challenge of hydraulic fracturing. Drilling companies work with local water planning agencies and the public to ensure that oil and gas operations do not disrupt local community water needs.
Water for hydraulic fracturing may be obtained from: surface water, groundwater, municipal water suppliers, treated wastewater from municipal and industrial treatment facilities, power plant cooling water, and/or recycled produced water and/or flow back water.
The water source choice depends on volume and water quality requirements; regulatory and physical availability; competing uses; and formation characteristics including water quality and compatibility considerations. If possible, wastewater from other industrial facilities or re-cycled frack water is used. This is followed by ground and surface water sources—with the preference of non-potable sources over potable sources.
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