Episode 148: Is it true that hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, uses a lot of water?

Meagan Mauter, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses how water is used as part of the hydraulic fracturing process, how much is used, and possible implications of that use.

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Learn more

The Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle from the Environmental Protection Agency

Regional Variation in Water-Related Impacts of Shale Gas Development and Implications for Emerging International Plays from the journal Environmental Science & Technology

Risks and Risk Governance in Unconventional Shale Gas Development from the journal Environmental Science & Technology

Transcript

MODERATOR:   Is it true that hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, uses a lot of water? On this week’s Energy Bite, Megan Mauter, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

MAUTER: Yes, hydraulic fracturing uses quite a bit of water. This water carries sand and chemicals to the shale layer, helping to fracture the shale and release the trapped natural gas.

Unconventional hydraulic fracturing uses as little as one million gallons or as many as six million gallons per well depending on the type of fracturing technology, the horizontal length of the well bore, and the specific location of the well.

In the Marcellus shale play, where Pennsylvania’s shale gas comes from, about 5 million gallons is used to fracture each shale gas well over a couple of days – about the same water as in 7 and a half Olympic size swimming pools.

MODERATOR:   What happens to all this water?

MAUTER:  This varies. In Pennsylvania, most of the water stays underground with only about 20% returning to the surface. The water that does return to the surface has a high concentration of salt and needs to be carefully disposed of in specialized oil and gas wastewater disposal wells, reused in future fracturing activities, or treated.  We’ll discuss more about this issue in a future episode.

MODERATOR:   Do you think the amount of water used for hydraulic fracturing is a concern? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

 

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