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Bureau Seminar, February 10, 2012

Water Needs of the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry in Texas and Impact on Aquifers

Link to streaming video: available 02.10.2012 at 8:55am

Jean-Philippe Nicot
Research Scientist
Bureau of Economic Geology

JP Nicot

Secondary and tertiary oil recovery, common in the Permian Basin of West Texas, as well as new slick water completions required for gas and oil production create a non-negligible water demand across the state. An estimate of current fresh-water use for waterflood operations in Texas is ~10,000 acre-feet and likely to decrease in the future even if, in the short team, more fields are put into production (and ROZ’s?). On the other hand, water use for well stimulation is likely to increase. The Barnett Shale gas play, located in North Texas, saw a quick growth in the past decade with the development of new “frac” technologies needed to create pathways to produce gas from the very low permeability shales. Plays such as the Eagle Ford Shale are coming online at a steeper rate than the Barnett did. A typical horizontal well completion consumes over 3-6 millions gallons of fresh water in a very short time (days). There are currently over 20,000 completed shale gas or oil wells in the State of Texas and many more will be drilled in the next decades. If tight-gas completions are included (such as the very active so-called Wolfberry play of the Permian Basin), the volume of water used is ~ 70 thousand acre-feet in 2011 raising some concerns among local communities and other groundwater stakeholders. However, the volume remains low on average compared to the total sate water demand (>18,000 thousand acre-feet), especially irrigation demand, although locally it can lead to conflicts. In addition, the industry is improving its water footprint by increased recycling, developing alternative sources of water (brackish, treatment plants) and more efficient additives, and other innovative strategies.


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