How Water Management for Shale Oil and Gas Is Evolving

Credit: Doug Duncan, US Geological Survey.
Hydraulic fracturing wellsite.

The shale revolution made water management for hydraulic fracturing a hot topic in the US. Hydraulic fracturing to extract shale oil and gas requires large quantities of water and produces a sizeable amount of flowback. Water sourcing, handling, and disposal represent significant parts of the operating costs in these operations. US shale operators are continually evolving their water management practices to optimize water use and costs. 

Many environmental, sustainability, and legislative issues are associated with water handling for hydraulic fracturing. This article provides an overview of some of the main trends and issues related to water management for tight oil and gas.

Introduction
Driven by the development in shale or tight oil, US crude oil production will average 10.6 million B/D in 2018, which would make it the highest-ever annual average production level. The US Energy Information Administration’s recently released Annual Energy Outlook 2018 projects that US tight oil will account for about 65% of cumulative domestic production in the reference case over the projection period of 2017 to 2050.

Over the last decade, advances in multistage hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling coupled with the high oil prices at the time led to the US shale revolution. The shale drilling boom and hydraulic fracturing made water management issues a complex and expensive aspect of these operations.

Hydraulic fracturing is a completion operation in which a hydraulic fluid is pumped down a well under pressure high enough to exceed the formation fraction gradient to create fractures through which oil or gas can flow into the well bore.

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HSE Now is a source for news and technical information affecting the health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility discipline of the upstream oil and gas industry.