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Recent Trends in Water Use and Production for California Oil Production

(Graphic: Drought developement in California during spring and summer 2014 Mother Jones | wikimedia)

Drought developement in California during spring and summer 2014 (Graphic: Mother Jones | wikimedia)
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This work quantifies water volumes used and produced by conventional oil production and hydraulic fracturing (HF) in California and finds increasing water use and disposal for oil production which has important implications for water management and have potentially adverse health, environmental, and ecological impacts.

Key findings:

  • Despite a 25% decrease in conventional oil production from 1999 to 2012, total water use increased by 30% though much of that increase was derived from re-use of produced water.
  • Produced water volumes increased by 50%, with increasing amounts disposed in unlined evaporation ponds or released to surface water.
  • Overall freshwater use (constituting 1.2% of the state’s non-agricultural water consumption) increased by 46% during this period due to increased freshwater-intensive tertiary oil production.
  • Water use intensity for HF wells in California averaged at 3.5 vol water/vol oil production in 2012 and 2.4 vol/vol in 2013, higher than the range from literature estimates, and net water use intensity of conventional production (1.2 vol/vol in 2012).

Bibliography:
Tiedeman K, Yeh S, Scanlon BR, Teter J, Mishra GS
Recent Trends in Water Use and Production for California Oil Production
Environ Sci Technol. 2016 May 13. [Epub ahead of print]

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