The study, by
The surge in water use shows how valuable a commodity water has become in semi-arid
“The numbers are astounding,” Redmond said of the Duke report. “Once you start commercializing groundwater resources which is what we’re seeing with fracking, that’s when you get into these huge numbers that aren’t regulated as tightly as they need to be.”
Water is one of the main ingredients in fracking, which cracks shale rock to release oil and gas. The Duke study, which studies six shale plays, based its findings of data from the
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, has become much more intense in the wake of the last oil bust as energy companies sought to make money at lower oil prices by increasing the productivity of wells. In addition to the surge in water consumption, fracking crews are using much more sand, which props open the cracks in the shale to allow oil and natural gas to escape. In one year alone, the average amount of sand pumped into a Permian well increased 50 percent, from 8.5 million pounds in 2016 to 12.8 million pounds in 2017, according to the research and consulting firm
More water and more sand have resulted in more oil and gas. Oil production per rig in the
“You end up with higher productivity in the wells when you pump more sand and more water,” said
With increased production has come increased water use. But Ortega said that since 2013, more oil and gas companies are recycling water instead pumping it underground in disposal wells. Ortega says that sometimes its not unheard for his company to recycle upwards of 60,000 barrels of water a day — water that can then be used again to frack.
“Over the last five years we’ve seen high applications of water recycling but also technologies that reduce the cost of doing so,” Ortega said. “With the oil and gas activity, produced water recycling and treatment is definitely an open market.”
Redmond, of the
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