Hydraulic fracturing water use variability in the United States and potential environmental implications

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Until now, up-to-date, comprehensive, spatial, national-scale data on hydraulic fracturing water volumes have been lacking. Water volumes used (injected) to hydraulically fracture over 263,859 oil and gas wells drilled between 2000 and 2014 were compiled and used to create the first U.S. map of hydraulic fracturing water use. Although median annual volumes of 15,275 m3 and 19,425 m3 of water per well was used to hydraulically fracture individual horizontal oil and gas wells, respectively, in 2014, about 42% of wells were actually either vertical or directional, which required less than 2600 m3 water per well. The highest average hydraulic fracturing water usage (10,000−36,620 m3 per well) in watersheds across the United States generally correlated with shale-gas areas (versus coalbed methane, tight oil, or tight gas) where the greatest proportion of hydraulically fractured wells were horizontally drilled, reflecting that the natural reservoir properties influence water use. This analysis also demonstrates that many oil and gas resources within a given basin are developed using a mix of horizontal, vertical, and some directional wells, explaining why large volume hydraulic fracturing water usage is not widespread. This spatial variability in hydraulic fracturing water use relates to the potential for environmental impacts such as water availability, water quality, wastewater disposal, and possible wastewater injection-induced earthquakes.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hydraulic fracturing water use variability in the United States and potential environmental implications
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1002/2015WR017278
Volume 51
Issue 7
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Eastern Energy Resources Science Center
Description 7 p.
First page 5839
Last page 5845
Country United States
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N