Friday, March 8, 2013

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Consumption in Texas

Texas is experiencing immense pressure for water resources. The west is in its second year of significant drought. A new study shows that Texas operates one fifth of the world’s operating oil and gas rigs. These developments have led to a serious concern over water uses in hydraulic fracturing.

Water is a crucial component in energy extraction, production and processing. Energy is necessary to transport, treat, heat, cool and recycle water. Energy relies upon water and vis versa, this creates an energy-water nexus.

Last month in Texas, two legislative committees convened hearings regarding hydraulic fracturing and water consumption. The state oil and gas regulator, the Railroad Commission of Texas, and the Texas Water Development Board determined that oil and gas development used more barrels of water (623 million) for fracturing than the barrels of oil it produced (441 million) in 2011.Industry representatives shared methods of reducing water consumption. The most common solution was to substitute brackish water.

Brackish water is expensive and difficult to access in Texas, but may be a powerful tool in other regions. Halliburton, the largest provider of hydraulic fracturing services, recently announced that they had reduced water consumption in the Bakken field by $400,000 per well through recycled water. The immense opportunities to reduce cost and waste associated with energy extraction are apparent.

The nexus between oil and gas production, hydraulic fracturing, energy production, transmission, etc. and water is one that needs to be strengthened. There needs to be continued innovation, careful monitoring and sharing of data. Amelia Nuding a water-energy analyst at Western Resource Advocates recently spoke at the RMLUI’s Annual Land Use conference. She stated that more emphasis should be placed on incorporated the full value of water into the decision-making process.

Angelica Oman
Graduate Program Assistant

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