The intensification of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing

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Science Advances  15 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaar5982
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar5982


Unconventional oil and gas exploration in the United States has experienced a period of rapid growth, followed by several years of limited production due to falling and low natural gas and oil prices. Throughout this transition, the water use for hydraulic fracturing and wastewater production in major shale gas and oil production regions has increased; from 2011 to 2016, the water use per well increased up to 770%, while flowback and produced water volumes generated within the first year of production increased up to 550%. The water-use intensity (that is, normalized to the energy production) increased in all U.S. shale basins except the Marcellus basin during this transition period. The steady increase of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing with time implies that future unconventional oil and gas operations will require larger volumes of water for hydraulic fracturing, which will result in larger produced oil and gas wastewater volumes.

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