Fracking at the corner of energy abundance and water scarcity
Fracking for oil and gas amid water scarcity has created a public-private crossroads, with both sides attempting to further their goals, Warren writes. Nowhere is the water-energy nexus so apparent as it is in the fracking (hydraulic fracturing) for oil and gas.
Recycling and Reusing Becoming an Imperative
There is no greater example of the water-energy nexus than the juncture where water meets the hydraulic fracturing process, or fracking, of natural gas and oil. This nexus has created a public-private crossroads, with both sides attempting to further their goals. For legislating and rulemaking bodies, their goals revolve around protecting public safety and natural resources needed by society.Skip to next paragraph
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For energy firms, producing energy to meet demand in a profitable way is the target. Non-governmental organizations play a public advocacy role as well, sometimes positively and constructively and sometimes losing sight of their mission. Increasingly, the challenge is about producing energy in the most environmentally-friendly manner, using less water more efficiently and responsibly, and utilizing natural resources as if a sustainable imperative were upon us. It may well be.
Many believe that the effects of climate change will be felt through water — extremes of floods and droughts, rising sea levels, and warming oceans, to name a few challenges. Whether viewing the water-energy nexus through the lens of climate change or resource sustainability, the impact of energy development on water resources has reached an inflection point.
At present, states have oversight of the water management issues in energy production, which includes fracking. On the federal level, the EPA plans to issue a report about hydraulic fracturing and the range of water issues in 2014. Many states will likely upgrade their rules and regulations in accordance with EPA. In a similar vein, the EPA will issue rulemaking reports on the disposal of water in coalbed methane production in 2013 and tight gas in 2014.
Texas lacks the water supplies to meet demand in times of drought (like in the present), according to the state’s Water Plan. To break the oil and gas trapped in the shale, very large amounts of water need to be forced through the rock layers at high pressure. The Haynesville Shale requires close to 8 million gallons per well, followed by the Eagle Ford play at 5 million and the Barnett Shale at over 4 million gallons. Water use for oil and gas and mining totaled 1.6% of Texas’ total water use. However, in the Eagle Ford shale region, these activities account for 6.5% of water demand, and are projected to increase by 26% from 2010 to 2060. In April, the Texas legislature began the journey of mandating the recycling of produced and flowback water from hydraulic fracturing operations. As a Midland, Texas mayor-oilman says, cited from a New York Times article: As valuable as oil and gas are, he said, “we are worthless without water.”
Recycling is being actively included in exploration and production companies’ water management strategies in shale gas-producing areas. Water reuse is a practice catching on in areas with scarce resources in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and others. The practice of water reuse results from reusing water from one fracking stage to the next, potentially many times over, versus only once followed by disposal. The incentives for firms to recycle and reuse may encourage more behavior change than proposed mandates with their added costs that do not allow for innovation and creativity that firms would have otherwise initiated. According to an executive at a water treatment firm in Dallas, energy firms have incentives to recycle and reuse owing to water scarcity, drought conditions and transportation costs of trucking in water.