A recent study entitled the “Intensification of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing” has caused a stir among observers of the petroleum-product extraction technique due to its implications in water-stressed areas. A Duke University team led by Avner Vengosh, a well-known scientist studying the hydraulic fracturing (fracking), recorded huge surges in water use in the production of shale oil and gas as well as huge surges in flowback and produced water volumes (i.e., wastewater). The wide deployment of fracking has catapulted the United States to the top tier of global oil and natural gas producers.
The analysis covered the years 2011 to 2016 and found water-use per well increased up to 770 percent and wastewater volumes increased up to an astounding 1,440 percent. Duke utilized data from industry, government and nonprofits at more than 12,000 wells in large shale-gas and tight-oil producing regions, which includes such basins as the Bakken, Niobrara, Permian, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus. The Permian shale region had the greatest rise in water use and wastewater production.
“We clearly see a steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint, with 2014 and 2015 marking a turning point where water use and the generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates,” stated Vengosh in a news release.
Water scarcity problems could occur in semi-arid locations like Texas’s Permian Basin or North Dakota’s Bakken, which could lead to competition over water resources. Water pollution of surface water and groundwater is also a concern, what with the enormous amount of hazardous wastewater that comes to the surface and requires either recycling or disposal.