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Managing the Increasing Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing

Scheme: Water use in hydraulic fracturing.

Through hydraulic fracturing tremendous amounts of water are forever made useless for drinking and irrigation. (Image: EPA

The water footprint of oil production, including water used for hydraulic fracturing (HF) and flowback-produced (FP) water, is increasingly important in terms of HF water sourcing and FP water management.

This study evaluates trends in HF water use relative to supplies and FP water relative to disposal using well by well analysis in the Bakken Play. HF water use/well increased by ~6 times from 2005-2014, totaling 24.5×109 gallons (93×109 liters) for ~10,140 wells. Water supplies expanded to meet increased demand, including access of up to ~33×109 gal/yr (125×109 L/yr) from Lake Sakakawea, expanding pipeline infrastructure by 100s of miles, and allowing water transfers from irrigation.

The projected inventory of ~60,000 future wells should require an additional ~11 times more HF water. Cumulative FP water has been managed by disposal into an increasing number (277 to 479) of salt water disposal wells. FP water is projected to increase by ~10 times during the play lifetime (~40 yr). Disposal of FP water into deeper geologic units should be considered because of reported overpressuring of parts of the Dakota Group. The long time series shows how policies have increased water supplies for HF and highlights potential issues related to FP water management.

Scanlon BR, Reedy RC, Male F, Hove M.
Managing the Increasing Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing in the Bakken Play, United States.
Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Aug 15. [Epub ahead of print]
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b01375


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