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1 Nov 1 2013 @ 6:51pm by Matt Smith in Crude Oil, Economy, energy consulting, Global Energy, Natural Gas

Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to…Frack

The line above is (mostly) taken from the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner‘. It seemed relevant when addressing the issue of water usage in hydraulic fracturing, as the poem provokes a similar range of emotions – from horror to incredulity to fascination. I haven’t set out to validate or vilify the relationship betwixt water and fracking, just present some background info. Which is this:

1) Fracking fluid is roughly 90% water. Sand accounts for just over 9%. It is the other >1% that causes all of the controversy. For it is these chemicals which make the water more ‘slippery’ to aid the fracking process. The chemicals used are sodium chloride (salt), ethylene glycol (used in household cleaners), borate salts (used in cosmetics), sodium/potassium carbonate (used in detergent), guar gum (used in ice cream), and isopropanol (used in deodorant).

2) To frack a well it requires on average 5 million gallons of water (= seven Olympic-sized swimming pools).

3) The initial furor surrounding groundwater pollution and fracking originated from an EPA study which declared fracking fluids likely polluted an aquifer that supplied public drinking water in Wyoming. Subsequently, further investigation has made them backtrack on this conclusion.

4) The average American household uses 320 gallons of water per day, with about 30% of that devoted to outdoor use. The EPA estimates landscape irrigation accounts for 9 billion gallons of water per day (3 trillion gallons a year).

5) Though fracking makes up less than 1%  of overall water use in Texas, it accounts for more than 50% of water use in certain counties, according to a 2011 report by the University of Texas.

6) A typical golf course uses between 100,000 to 1 million gallons of water per week in the summer. Water audits suggest  they use 20% – 50% more water than necessary.

7) 21 US states have now adopted mandatory disclosure rules for fracking fluids, requiring natural gas drillers to fully disclose which chemicals they use in fracking on public lands.

8) An oldie but a goodie: back in 2011, Halliburton created a new fracking fluid called CleanStim, which CEO Dave Lesar first revealed at a conference. To prove how safe it was, he drank it made another executive drink it. (Apparently it tasted like beer).

9) Through water recycling, companies such as Halliburton can save the vast volumes of water used, with the (rather favorable) benefit of saving additional costs of $70,000 and $100,000 per well.

10) 31% of residential water in Texas is consumed outside of homes. In 2010, this accounted for 495 billion gallons, while in 2011 fracking accounted for about 26.6 billion gallons in Texas. Conclusion = watering lawns in Texas used 18 times more water than fracking. The caveat? Fracking has likely emphatically ramped up since then.

I hope you found this useful. It hasn’t necessarily swayed me to be any more pro- or anti- fracking, but at least makes me feel a bit better informed; I hope this is the same case for you. ‘Til next time…rock on!

1 Comment on this post:

  1. Ron Wagner says:

    The drought in the Southwest will make using fracking for wells more of an issue. Apparently CO2 is another option, but I have not studied it. I spent half of my life in California so know how much water is wasted there. The question is who has the money to buy the water that is available. In my opinion it should go to the highest bidder. I hate to see it go to lawns during droughts.

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