Water: Fracking sucks more than you think!

Photo: Car Lust

When I was sixteen, I announced my intention to buy a new VW Beetle for a monthly payment of only $125. That s when I first learned about associated costs. It was several years before I could finally afford a new, red, VW Beetle and all the associated costs.

Did you think that industry was telling you the whole story about the amount of water they use to frack a natural gas well?

In the Barnett Shale, estimated frack water usage ranges between 2.5 to 9 million gallons per frack. The Eagle Ford Shale average, according to the Texas Water Development Board, is 7.5 million gallons per frack. We don t know exactly how much water they use because most of the estimates come from industry. We do have the little dab of information from the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District that revealed industry used 1,146,598,272.73 gallons of groundwater in 2009. But that only considers the metered sources. There were many cases where industry took water from unmetered sources with no enforcement action or fines.

Another estimate on frack water usage comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mywesttexas.com recently reported in their article, Gas fracturing trades one scarce resource for another, that EPA estimates water use for fracking nationwide was 70 billion to 140 billion gallons in 2010.

Fracking could suck Texas dry. Photo: Memphis Commercial Appeal

What if I told you that these estimates are only a drop in the bucket when you consider the associated water usage required to fracture a well?

I don t know how much sand they use to frack a Barnett Shale gas well but I did find a frack sand provider that claims it takes 5 millions pounds of sand to frack a Marcellus gas well. So, let s just use that for a ballpark number. According to my favorite iPhone App, Convert, that s 2,500 tons of frack sand for one frack job. 

You might remember from my blog post, Frack sand mining doesn t just suck, it blows, that Enron Oil and Gas (EOG) will use 3700 gallons of water per minute to process frack sand at their proposed mine in North Texas.  According to the permit, the EOG frack sand mine can produce up to a maximum of 150 tons of finished frack sand per hour.

Fun with fracking social math:

  • 2500 tons is approximately 303 African elephants.
  • At 150 tons per hour, it will take 17 hours and 3,774,000 million gallons of water to process 2500 tons of frack sand.  (Now you have enough sand to frack one well.)
  • A Barnett Shale gas well takes from 2.5 to 9 million gallons of water to frack.
  • There are approximately 15,000 wells in the Barnett Shale.
  • If each well used only the minimum amount of water, 2.5 million gallons, and only 2500 tons of frack sand, the associated water cost for fracking one well would be 6,274,000 million gallons.
  • That s a minimum of 94,110,000,000 gallons of water and 37,500,000 tons of sand (454,545 African elephants) used to frack the approximately 15000 Barnett Shale gas wells.
  • According to the US Geological Survey, a person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water a day.  
  • Using the higher number of 100 gallons of water a day, that is enough water for 941,100,000 people for one day.
  • That s enough water for 31,370,000 people for one month.
  • That s enough water for 2,578,368 people for one year.
  • That s enough water for 36,834 people for an entire generation (70 years).
  • That s almost enough water for all of Cooke County for 70 years.
  • That s enough water for the entire 6,500,000 population of Dallas for 145 days.

That s a whole lot of fracking water!

The EOG frack sand mine is in an area designated by TCEQ as a priority groundwater management area (PGMA). According to TCEQ, a PGMA is “an area designated and delinated by TCEQ that is experiencing, or is expected to experience, within 25 years, critical groundwater problems including shortages of surface water or groundwater, land subsidence resulting from groundwater withdrawal, and contamination of groundwater supplies.”

There are a whole bunch of associated fracking costs in the preceding paragraph. If my mother were here, she would tell you that we can t afford this fracking because it sucks way too much.  

(No elephants where harmed in these calculations.)

P.S. I started to wonder how many lakes we have used up fracking the Barnett Shale. You can convert acre-feet to gallons HERE. You can look up real-time reservoir information HERE.  And this could go on endlessly.

Remember, these are estimates based on minimal associated usage.

  • Grapevine Lake: Storage at top conservation pool is 164,702 acre-feet. Barnett Shale fracked up Grapevine Lake 1.75 times.
  • Lake Worth, Benbrook Lake and Lake Grapevine are all fracked up.