While researching a Hart Energy special report on hydraulic fracturing, which is coming out in August, the issue of the water needed for fracing was front and center.
In countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Oman, there are lots of shale targets, but the lack of water puts a major constraint on drilling and development.
Other countries are far more worried about contamination of aquifers than finding lower-cost energy. France and Bulgaria, for example, have banned fracing based on environmental concerns, and the European Union (EU) is considering a ban.
Not all EU members agree with that approach. Poland is adamantly opposed to the ban. The government has funded a thorough study of one of the first wells drilled and fraced in the country. The researchers found no contamination of nearby aquifers by the fracturing operation.
But, that hasn’t stopped the drum beat calling for banning of fracing around the world. The United States has been using the technique for 60 years safely. The biggest environmental problem appears to be with surface spills of fluids.
But, fresh water is a valuable commodity. Pumping millions of gallons of fresh water downhole and getting dirty water back is a major problem.
Some companies are addressing this in an effort to save fresh water and cut down on the number of trucks hauling water to the wellsite.
Apache, for example, is using salt water for fracing on its Canadian wells. By drawing the salt water from underground and using it in a closed system before reinjecting it, the company can lower its footprint for hauling water as well as realizing fewer emissions since not as many trucks are needed to deliver water.
The industry can solve this problem, said Amy Myers Jaffe, director, Energy Forum at the Baker Institute, at the seventh annual Mayer Brown Conference on Global Energy, on May 23.
“If the industry is told it can’t use fresh water in two years, it won’t be using fresh water. If you tell the industry it’s a rule, the industry will comply.”
You can see how afraid people are about losing their water supplies. States like Colorado and Nevada, for example, may have to limit residential growth because of a lack of fresh water. It is a prospect that few government officials want to address.
If the industry can do more to alleviate the concern of people about water supplies, the more accepting the public will be of energy development. And, if the industry does make these efforts, it should be loudly proclaimed as an example of the commitment of oil and gas companies to be good citizens.
From the Oil Drum blog of the week of May 21 on Vermont banning hydraulic fracturing, one of Hart Energy E&P Online’s readers responded about the ban.
Josef Shaoul used to live in Vermont and his water well went dry. “What did we do? We called the local boys with a pump truck to frac our well. Production increased by a factor of 10.”
He added that this has been going on in Vermont for a long time. His water well was 450-ft deep. A link to a local water well company shows the firm’s description of hydraulic fracturing.
“I hope they don’t ban fracing of water wells in Vermont, too,” he emphasized.
Now that would be funny – and ironic – if the ban on hydraulic fracturing for oil wells also covered water wells. Then what would the governor and the legislature have to do?
Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at email@example.com.
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