Friday, September 14, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere: 20 Months of Frackwater in the U.S.

SkyTruth has been looking over industry-reported data from FracFocus.org to see what we can learn about hydraulic fracturing activity across the United States. One topic we were curious about was the volume of water being used by fracking operations. According to a report on modern shale gas prepared for the U.S. Dept. of Energy and others by the Groundwater Protection Council (one of the managers of the FracFocus website), "[t]he amount of water needed to drill and fracture a horizontal shale gas well generally ranges from about 2 million to 4 million gallons, depending on the basin and formation characteristics." While that is a lot of water, does the data voluntarily reported match this estimate, and what does that look like repeated thousands of times across the U.S.?

We ranked the leading operators based on the number of reported wells with a Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Product Component Information Disclosure on FracFocus.org and this is what we found:

Rank*
State
Fracks Reported
Average              (in gallons)
Total Used
% of Total Water Use
1
Texas
11,922
2,573,701
30,683,667,301
47%
2
Colorado
4,205
1,242,158
5,223,274,238
8%
3
Pennsylvania
1,884
4,328,886
8,155,620,871
12%
4
North Dakota
1,353
2,010,931
2,720,789,835
4%
5
Arkansas
1,305
5,223,972
6,817,283,249
10%
6
Wyoming
1,131
761,048
860,745,353
1%
7
Oklahoma
1,113
3,756,270
4,180,728,158
6%
8
Louisiana
930
5,341,088
4,967,211,610
8%
9
New Mexico
789
663,868
523,791,968
0.8%
10
Utah
783
352,288
275,841,828
0.4%
11
California
314
167,507
52,597,101
0.1%
12
West Virginia
178
4,720,082
840,174,633
1.3%
N/A
All Other States
432
1,383,994
597,885,252
0.9%
*by # of fracks
TOTAL
26,339
2,501,984
65,899,611,396
100%


Looking at these numbers, we find that the industry estimate is fairly accurate but it varies significantly by state. The main variable for the volume of water is the geology of the basin being fracked. Stimulating a conventional shallow well for oil in the Coconino formation of Utah takes much less than an unconventional well in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania, and in some cases, like California's Monterrey Shale, are ideally suited for low-volume fracking with an average of only 167,506 gallons.

But even with small fracks, water volumes in the hundreds of thousands of gallons add up to 65.9 BILLION gallons, so we decided to see what that total volume would look like in the real world. However, a few notes about the data:
  • Our analyses are based only on the information which is voluntarily reported by participating companies. We have posted before on the lack of complete disclosure on FracFocus, but for measuring quantities, we can easily assume that our calculations will be conservative.
  • Some fracking jobs reuse "produced water" from other jobs, but because it is listed by so many different names, we have not differentiated the amount recycled.
With these considerations in mind, you can see that between January 2011 and August 2012, a total of 20 months, the United States used at least 65.9 billion gallons of water to frack for oil and gas, with Texas accounting for almost half of all water use. But as big as these numbers are, what does that look like in the real world?

Visualizing 65.9 Billion Gallons of Frackwater:


Horseshoe Falls as seen from the Canadian side. 
Wikipedia Commons
To put in perspective the immense volume that this is, we turned our attention to an iconic feature that epitomizes massive quantities of water: Niagara Falls. Standing 167 feet tall between New York, U.S.A. and Ontario, Canada, at least 100,000 cubic feet water flow over these cataracts every second during the daylight hours of summer. (As opposed to be diverted to produce hydro-electric power, an international treaty mandates that at least 100,000 cf/s of flow be maintained during the tourist season to ensure "an unbroken curtain of water.")

The minimum rate of flow that is guaranteed to tourists translates to three-quarters of a million gallons per second . We asked, at this rate, how long would it take for 65.9 billion gallons to thunder over the ledge and onto the Maid of the Mist below? Let's do the math...



1 cubic foot= 7.48 gallons so 100,000 cf/s=748,052 gal./second

748,052 g/s x 60 seconds = 44,883,120 gal./minute

44.88 million gal./min. x 60 min. per hour= 2,692,980,000 gal. /hr. = 100,000 cf/s

So all that leads us to this conclusion:

 65,899,611,396 gal. ÷ 2,692,980,000 gal. /hr. = 24.47 hours


At this rate, we can now see it would take over a day for Niagara Falls to represent the 65.9 billion gallons of water the United States has been drawing from rivers, lakes, and streams, trucking or piping to wellpads, lacing with toxic chemicals, mixing with tons of sand (check back in a few days to find out how much sand and where it comes from), and injecting deep into the ground to get oil and gas.

Keep in mind that all of this water either stays in the ground OR returns to the surface as an industrial waste product that is sometimes mildly radioactive, and that is just based on what has been reported to FracFocus. Now that is a LOT of water...



There are many videos of Niagara Falls, but this has a particular SkyTruthiness to it since we are always interested in remote sensing tools like this for  obtaining the aerial imagery that defines SkyTruth. (Start at 1:20 for the launch of the RC craft)

12 comments:

  1. Definitely a whole LOT of water permanently removed from the world water system. Thank you for doing this valuable research and analysis and sharing it with us.

    So we can understand it in a way that's closer to home, do you know how that amount of water translates into domestic use? Like 65.9 billion gallons of water is enough to: supply XXXXXX average U.S. households with water for a day (a year.

    ReplyDelete
  2. And this was the year of so much drought throughout the US. Let's turn toward cleaner energy and let the animals and people and crops have clean water. Thank you for this great reporting. - J.J.Brown, PhD

    ReplyDelete
  3. What % of the water is recycled or not permanently removed from the "System?" I think that would be a much more relevant number

    ReplyDelete
  4. We are very interested in that number too, but so far we have been unable to pull a number out of the data that we believe is accurate. There are many limitations to the information that we have, and a main one is the lack of consistency in what things like recycled water are labeled in the disclosure forms. Water volume was one of the few parameters that was easy to work with.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Very good point Karla! It's hard to get an estimate on average direct water use in the U.S., but most of the ones I have seen point to about 100 gallons per person/per day. For example, the EPA says here http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/indoor.html that a family of four uses 400 gallons a day. This does not account for our much broader indirect water consumption from a meat-based diet, certain types of clothing, etc. But just going on the direct use of water that flows through the average individual's tap @ 100 gallons per day:

    The U.S. Census Bureau Clocks says that our population as of Sept. 15, 2012 is 314,381,546 people.

    314,381,546 people x 100 gallons per day = 31,438,154,600 gallons or 31.4 billion gallons.

    I think we can see where this is going already, but to make the numbers more representative, let's generalize our numbers so they match. While the exact numbers are going to be a little different, the average water use for fracking based on our numbers is about 3.3 billion gallons per month, and about 39.5 billion gallons per year.

    So that leads us to this conclusion:

    39,539,766,837.6 gal. avg. annual use for fracking ÷ 31,438,154,600 gals. avg. daily domestic use= 1.26

    That 1.26 means that according to these averages, reported U.S water use for fracking is equivalent to 1.26 days worth of bathing, flushing, brushing teeth, etc. There are lots of other calculations we could do, but hopefully that puts 65.9 billion into a more domestic perspective. Thanks for asking!

    EDITORS NOTE: An earlier comment with these calculations was in error, upgrading the daily U.S. water use to annual water use. Thanks to redmike for catching the unit error.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hmm... well, I just looked at fracfocus.org and it reports only O(4000) wells in Colorado. About 10% of the active wells here, I think. The county next door has over 18,000 wells. Such a small portion of the wells are reported with fracfocus that I think we can consider this only the tip of the iceberg.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Remember that FracFocus has only been collecting reports from industry for a couple of years; the earliest reports are from 2010. So it's only the most recently drilled, unconventional (fracked) wells that are subject to being reported on FracFocus. Older wells, and conventional oil/gas wells that aren't fracked, won't appear on FracFocus. Since modern fracking got underway seriously in Colorado during the 1980s, tens of thousands of fracking jobs that happened in the Rockies between the 1980s and 2010 won't be included in FracFocus.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Question for the SkyTruth folks: where do you get the total water # from which you compute the % total consumed for the state?

    The reason I asked is that the oil & gas commission here says it uses about .08% whereas you say about 8% -- what's your source for this info? I'd be grateful for that source, since I'm trying to see how well the ogcc is estimating water use here.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We are running these numbers from a database that we have created from all the FracFocus.org disclosures. However, due to copyright issues listed on their website, we aren't comfortable that we can release our database without infringing on what we believe are unreasonably restrictive terms of use. Please stay tuned for more posts, we will be writing more about the issue of openness and the true spirit of disclosure.

    We want to share our data so everyone can have access to it, and folks like you can do comparisons and analyses, but for now we are unable to. To our knowledge, only one other such database exists, the D-FRAC database run by a for-profit company.

    Could you clarify exactly what metrics you are referring too and what .08% OGCC is quoting? Thanks for your interest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://cogcc.state.co.us/Library/Oil_and_Gas_Water_Sources_Fact_Sheet.pdf
      is the source of the .08%

      I have not been able to post a reply for a long time now and am trying multiple ways
      so please bear with me if this is a repeat

      Delete
  10. I seem to be having trouble posting as well - hope this one goes through.

    The difference is that we were not looking at total water use budgets, just how much each state was using of the 66 billion gallons we calculated were reported nationwide during the 20 months. We wanted to see which state was using the most water out all the states reporting fracking.

    This report is showing how much of the total CO water use was dedicated to fracking. It would be interesting to try and compare what the COGCC says with the reported volume from our database which is now public:

    http://blog.skytruth.org/2012/11/skytruth-releases-fracking-chemical.html

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Download the "Reports" data from "http://frack.skytruth.org/fracking-chemical-database/frack-chemical-data-download" to a known location.

    Create a MySQL database called "fracking" using the following SQL:

    CREATE DATABASE IF NOT EXISTS `fracking` DEFAULT CHARACTER SET latin1;

    Create a MySQL table called "reports" within the "fracking" database using the following SQL:

    CREATE TABLE `reports` (
    `rpt_seqid` bigint(20) NOT NULL DEFAULT '0',
    `rpt_pdf_seqid` bigint(20) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_api` varchar(12) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_fracture_date` datetime DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_state` varchar(30) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_county` varchar(20) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_operator` varchar(50) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_well_name` varchar(50) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_production_type` varchar(3) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_latitude` double DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_longitude` double DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_datum` varchar(5) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_true_vertical_depth` varchar(9) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_total_water_volume` varchar(9) DEFAULT NULL,
    `rpt_published` datetime DEFAULT NULL,
    PRIMARY KEY (`rpt_seqid`),
    KEY `pdf_seqid` (`rpt_pdf_seqid`),
    KEY `rpt_state` (`rpt_state`)
    ) ENGINE=MYISAM DEFAULT CHARSET=latin1;

    Import the downloaded "reports" information into the "reports" table using the following SQL:

    USE `fracking`;

    TRUNCATE TABLE `reports`;

    LOAD DATA INFILE '/what/ever/folder/FracFocusReport-2013-01-01.txt' INTO TABLE `reports`
    FIELDS TERMINATED BY '\t'
    OPTIONALLY ENCLOSED BY '"'
    LINES TERMINATED BY '\n'
    IGNORE 1 LINES;

    Run the following SQL to obtain a report similar to the tabular results that appeared in the article above:

    SET @curRow = 0;
    SET @total = (SELECT SUM(rpt_total_water_volume) FROM reports);
    SELECT
    @curRow := @curRow + 1 `Rank *`,
    qry1.*
    FROM
    (
    SELECT
    rpt_state `State`,
    COUNT(*) `Fracks Reported`,
    ROUND(AVG(CAST(rpt_total_water_volume AS UNSIGNED)), 0) `Average (in gallons)`,
    ROUND(SUM(CAST(rpt_total_water_volume AS UNSIGNED)), 0) `Total Used (in gallons)`,
    ROUND(SUM(CAST(rpt_total_water_volume AS UNSIGNED)) / @total * 100.00, 1) `% of Total Water Use`
    FROM
    reports
    GROUP BY
    rpt_state
    ORDER BY
    `Fracks Reported` DESC
    ) qry1
    UNION ALL
    SELECT
    '================',
    '===========',
    '=======',
    '=========',
    '===========',
    '====='
    UNION ALL
    SELECT
    '* by # of fracks',
    'TOTAL',
    COUNT(*),
    ROUND(AVG(CAST(rpt_total_water_volume AS UNSIGNED)), 0),
    ROUND(SUM(CAST(rpt_total_water_volume AS UNSIGNED)), 0),
    ROUND(SUM(CAST(rpt_total_water_volume AS UNSIGNED)) / @total * 100.00, 1)
    FROM
    reports;

    ReplyDelete