Fracking, Oil Shale Suck Water from Where its Most Needed

April 2, 2014

Pesky people and their food will have to make way for progress.

Guardian:

America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.

Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.

Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.

“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.

Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.

“It’s a wake-up call,” said Prof James Famiglietti, a hydrologist at the University of California, Irvine. “We understand as a country that we need more energy but it is time to have a conversation about what impacts there are, and do our best to try to minimise any damage.”

It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts.

Half of the 97bn gallons of water was used to frack wells in Texas, which has experienced severe drought for years – and where production is expected to double over the next five years.

Nasdaq.com:

Drilling for oil in California dates back to the late 19th Century, allowing it to become the country’s top producer by the beginning of the 20th. One hundred years later, California still ranks third, but its aging fields have been in decline for decades.

Yet the state is sitting atop the largest tight oil formation in the United States. The Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas may be leading the resurgence in U.S. oil production, but the reserves sitting in California’s Monterey Shale dwarf those of its more notable counterparts. The interest in the Monterey Shale is heating up, with the legislature passing a controversial law last year to put in place the state’s first regulations over hydraulic fracturing. The Director of the California Department of Conservation claims the “regulations include the strongest and most comprehensive public protections of any oil- and gas- producing state,” while still allowing the industry to move forward with drilling.

The Monterey Shale holds an estimated 13.7 billion barrels of unproven technically recoverable oil resources – about three times the reserves believed to be in the Bakken formation in North Dakota. Despite these prodigious resources, safely tapping them will be incredibly difficult. Deborah Gordon at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace outlines in an important new report several significant obstacles that may prevent a Bakken-like bonanza in California.

Chief among them is water scarcity. California suffered its driest year ever in 2013, with recordkeeping dating back to 1895. 2014 will mark the third consecutive year of severe drought. Hydraulic fracturing requires a lot of water, and as California’s water crisis worsens, a dearth of water along with state-mandated water restrictions will hamper oil and gas production.

To make matters worse, much of the oil and gas reserves in the Monterey Shale are situated in the Central Valley, a huge agricultural region that grows much of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. Farmers are already feeling the bite of water limits, and the state is no stranger to fights over water between farmers, landowners, industry, and even neighboring states. A rise in oil and gas drilling will only exacerbate this conflict. Much will hinge on the confusing and overlapping authorities on water governance in California, as Gordon points out.

Another problem is the Monterey Shale’s location along several fault lines. Wastewater reinjection wells can contribute to seismic activity, which in turn could contaminate aquifers. The industry could expect some serious blowback should drilling activity be linked to a California earthquake.

 

 

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10 Responses to “Fracking, Oil Shale Suck Water from Where its Most Needed”


  1. This article is guilty of using tiny units to inflate numbers to make things sound bigger.  97 billion gallons is a mere 23,869 acre-feet.  12 inches of rain on 40 square miles replaces all the fraccing water used in Texas, ever.  It also weakens the case against the technology.  Suppose the drillers switch from trucked-in water to piped-in propane or CO2 for the fraccing step.  Does the real problem go away?


  2. […] Fracking, Oil Shale Suck Water from Where its Most Needed Pesky people and their food will have to make way for progress. Guardian: America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texa… […]


  3. […] Pesky people and their food will have to make way for progress. Guardian: America's oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texa…  […]

  4. jimbills Says:

    West Texas is nothing but this for mile upon mile:
    https://goo.gl/maps/QAvKW

    Lovely, no?

    But, to be fair, fracking in even places like Midland, Texas is still a minority share in water usage. Public usage and agriculture tends to easily dwarf fracking’s share. Recent drought is also a large factor. Fracking, of course, puts an additional strain on otherwise already tight regions.


  5. For a little more insight into what it’s like in Texas, see the video. It’s about people, not just numbers. Most of the area depends on wells. With a long drought, water is in short supply. The aquifers are low. If a fracking company taps the aquifer and it runs dry, goodbye town. It does not matter how much water there is elsewhere or how small the impact of fracking is overall. The land just can’t take anymore water demand.
    http://cleantechnica.com/2013/09/13/fracking-update-these-are-the-texas-towns-running-out-of-water/

    • dumboldguy Says:

      No, no, no! You’re “guilty of using tiny units to inflate numbers to make things sound bigger”. Did you not read what E-Pot said? “97 billion gallons is a mere 23,869 acre-feet. 12 inches of rain on 40 square miles replaces all the fraccing water used in Texas, ever”.

      How dare you pick out that aquifer right under that little town just because it really matters! Texas is such a big state that the people CAN go elsewhere when the fracking companies dry up their water supply—-I’m sure the companies will pay for everything—-hasn’t BP “fixed’ the gulf oil spill?


  6. […] America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found.Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found.Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush.“Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network.Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users.Click headline to read more–  […]


  7. […] 2014/04/02: PSinclair: Fracking, Oil Shale Suck Water from Where its Most Needed […]


  8. […] America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found. Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found. Fracking those wells used 97bn gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush. “Hydraulic fracturing is increasing competitive pressures for water in some of the country’s most water-stressed and drought-ridden regions,” said Mindy Lubber, president of the Ceres green investors’ network. Without new tougher regulations on water use, she warned industry could be on a “collision course” with other water users. Click headline to read more–  […]


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