Fracking represents less than 1% of U.S. industrial water use, study shows


DURHAM, NC, Sept. 15, 2105 -- According to a new Duke University study, U.S. energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract unconventional shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells across the nation between 2005 and 2014. During the same period, the fracked wells generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater.

As large as those numbers seem, the study calculates that the water used in fracking makes up less than 1 percent of total industrial water use nationwide. While fracking an unconventional shale gas or oil well takes much more water than drilling a conventional oil or gas well, the study finds that compared to other energy-extraction methods, fracking is less water-intensive in the long run.

Underground coal and uranium mining, and oil recovery enhancement extraction use between two-and-a-half to 13 times more water per unit of energy produced. The study also found that fracked oil wells generate about half of a barrel of wastewater for each barrel of oil, while conventional oil wells on land generate more than three barrels of wastewater for each barrel of oil.

"Water use and wastewater production are two of the chief environmental concerns voiced about hydraulic fracturing," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. "Yet until now, we've had only a fragmented and incomplete understanding of how much water is actually being used and how much wastewater is being produced."

Vengosh continued, "Our new study, which integrates data from multiple government and industry sources, provides the first comprehensive assessment of fracking's total water footprint, both nationally and for each of the 10 major U.S. shale gas or tight oil basins." However, finding ways to treat and dispose of or recycle the large volume of chemical-laden flowback water and brine-laden wastewater that is produced over the lifetime of an unconventional oil or gas well also poses challenges, the researchers noted. (from