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Monday, July 2, 2012

Fracking curtailed because of drought - preview of coming attractions?

For the second time this year, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has ordered gas drilling (and other) companies to suspend their withdrawals of water from tributaries of the Susquehanna River.  In Texas, the worst drought since record-keeping began 116 years ago has crimped gas drilling as water supplies have been rationed. Concern about fracking’s thirst is becoming a global issue.  And with water cycle intensification also happening globally, it’s all bound to get worse for drillers (and energy producers generally).

The gas industry is working to reduce its water consumption, mainly through recycling. In Pennsylvania, acid mine drainage is being eyed as an alternative water source.  Where conditons dictate, alternative fracking methods are being tried.  Waterless fracking using propane gel is in limited use.  CO2 fracking has been tried in Ohio.  Nitrogen has been used to frack wells in Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Those alternatives to water-based hydraulic fracturing have environmental advantages, but do not necessarily avoid all of the problems associated with wastewater or produced water disposal. 

Water supplies may trump all.  Fracking is a truly consumptive use of water, and more research on its impacts is needed.  But the emerging realities of climate disruption may force the gas industry to turn to alternatives.

1 comment:

  1. Developing and permitting water sources and moving water by truck or pipe from source to impoundment and/or pad is one of the most expensive parts of the E&P process, and companies are looking to reduce these costs of production.