Water use by the oil and gas industry : an assessment of two Texas regions

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2013-12

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Abstract

The oil and gas industry makes up approximately 1% of Texas’s overall water use (TWDB, 2012), but assessing water use on a regional and county level could show that the impacts from the oil and gas industry can be greater on a local level. Water planners within in Texas are becoming more concerned with how regional and local impacts from upstream development of oil and gas. These areas are under water-stressed conditions due to drought. To better understand potential local use impacts this study conducted qualitative and quantitative analyses. The qualitative analysis gathered input from stakeholders including representatives in the oil and gas industry, regulatory sector, and Texas water planning entities. This study utilized two public databases called FracFocus to assess average water use trends over time for the Eagle Ford region in south Texas and the Spraberry/Wolfcamp formations in west Texas. According to the qualitative analysis conducted trends toward increasing use of brackish groundwater and some recycling and reuse techniques by some operators are occurring in both regions. Also, there were slightly increasing trends of average water use per a well over time for both regions between January 2011 and April 2013. This analysis can be misrepresentative of the cause of the change in water use by the oil and gas industry, and therefore requires more data. The FracFocus database lacks the direction of the well, the lateral length of the well, and the mass of the proppant. These inputs would allow for a holistic analysis by water planners. vii The oil and gas industry can have local impacts on water use in particular regions. An increasing importance for regional water planners to have access to accurate oil and gas water use data is apparent. Collaboration between the oil and gas industry and Texas regional water planners will be a key component in areas with heavier mining water demands. Conclusively, the need for a more robust data set for regulators, industry professionals, and other stakeholders to access will benefit the strategic assessments oil and gas water use on local levels.

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