Study: Water Use in Fracking

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Study: Water Use Skyrockets as Fracking Expands

Oil and natural gas fracking, on average, uses more than 28 times the water it did 15 years ago, gulping up to 9.6 million gallons of water per well and putting farming and drinking sources at risk in arid states, especially during drought.

Those are the results of a U.S. Geological Survey study published by the American Geophysical Union, the first national-scale analysis and map of water use from hydraulic fracturing operations.

Fracking, which was banned in New York this week because of water pollution and climate concerns, injects large quantities of sand, water and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to release trapped oil and natural gas. The process has been found to leak large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and the resulting fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change.

However, the natural gas produced using fracking is often considered a more climate-friendly fuel for electricity generation than coal because burning gas emits fewer greenhouse gases.

Though fracking is used to produce natural gas in less-arid regions such as Pennsylvania, many of the nation’s fracking operations occur in places where water may become scarcer in a warming world, including Texas, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains — regions that have been devastated by drought over the last five years.

Energy companies are using more water to frack oil and gas wells because newer technology, which allows them to find oil in more complicated geology, requires it, USGS research geologist and study co-author Mark Engle said.

The amount of water fracking uses is small compared to the water needs of farming or power plant cooling, but in areas that have little water to begin with, fracking can strain water supplies.

“The reality is there is a pretty strong constraint on the amount of fresh water available,” he said.

Though some of the water used for fracking is recycled, most of it is disposed deep underground, almost entirely removed from the water cycle and never to be used again.

Source: ClimateCentral

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