Fresh water reduction technologies and strategies for hydraulic fracturing : case study of the Eagle Ford shale play, Texas




Leseberg, Megan Patrice

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Hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a tremendous resource across the United States and around the world—shale. However, these processes have also come with a myriad of potential environmental effects, including a substantial demand for water. Hydraulic fracturing can require anywhere between two and four million gallons per well. The need for such large quantities of water can produce severe stresses on local water resources.

In response to this issue, operators have developed several ways to alleviate some of the stresses brought on by the extensive water use such as alternative sourcing and reuse technologies. Companies are driven to exercise these options and decrease their fresh water usage for hydraulic fracturing processes for multiple reasons, including changes in regulation, to gain support of local communities, and to increase efficiencies of operations. Whatever the motivation may be, there are a variety of options companies have at their disposal to reduce fresh water demands—dependent on specific formation characteristics, the qualities and quantities of available water, among others.

The Eagle Ford shale is one of the most rapidly growing shale plays in the country. However, this formation is located in a fairly arid part of the country. Because of meager average rainfall totals, water availability to meet demand is an issue of great concern. Due to nearly exponential increases in shale production, stresses on local water supplies have dramatically increased as well.

The objectives of this thesis are as follows: 1) to establish the enormous resource that has become available; while still recognizing the environmental impacts associated with development processes, focusing primarily on water requirements and associated wastewater production; 2) to break down current water demand for shale development, as well as wastewater management practices in the Eagle Ford, with a brief comparison to other shale plays across the country; 3) to obtain an understanding of operator motivation—what factors affect wastewater management strategies; and 4) to analyze techniques operators presently have at their disposal to reduce fresh water demands, specifically through the use of brackish waters and recycling/reuse efforts, and finally to quantify these efforts to evaluate potential fresh water savings.



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