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Texas, Pennsylvania Tops in Water Consumption For Oil/Gas Drilling, EPA Finds

Pennsylvania was second only to Texas in the amount of water used for gross oil and gas production from 2011 to 2013, according to a recently released U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis of tens of thousands of FracFocus disclosures by operators in 20 states.

The agency's analysis comes as part of a broader draft report about hydraulic fracturing’s (fracking) impact on drinking water resources across the country that's expected to be released sometime in the coming months (seeShale Daily, June 21, 2013). The EPA analyzed data filed with the FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry during the period.

Although an EPA official told NGI's Shale Daily late last year that the analysis would likely be outdated by the time it was released, the work shows just how much drilling occurred in Pennsylvania in the years studied (see Shale Daily, Oct. 21, 2014). EPA examined 2,483 disclosures from operators working in the state and found that 11 billion gallons of water were used to drill for oil and gas over the roughly two-year period. Nearly a quarter of that water was consumed for wells drilled in Bradford County in the northeast part of the state, which is today one of the top-producing counties (see Shale Daily, April 1).

Texas led the nation in water use for oil and gas development, according to the EPA analysis, where a staggering 45 billion gallons of water was consumed over the study period. That state produced 8.2 Tcf of natural gas and more than 900 million bbl of oil in 2013, compared to the roughly 3.3 Tcf of natural gas and the more than 4 million bbl of oil produced in Pennsylvania, according to the EPA data.

Arkansas was the only other state that came close to Texas and Pennsylvania's water consumption, where 7.5 billion gallons of water was used to drill for oil and gas. In most of the states examined, the median volume of water used per disclosure was between two and five million gallons. Although the EPA said reported volumes ranged from 30,000 to 7.2 million gallons per disclosure.

Hydraulic fracturing fluids were generally found to contain about 88% water, 10% quartz used as proppant and about 1% additives EPA's analysis (see Shale Daily, March 31). EPA said the median number of additive ingredients per disclosure was 14, with hydrochloric acid, methanol and hydrotreated light petroleum distillates reported in 65% of all disclosures analyzed.

FracFocus is managed by the Ground Water Protection Council, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and oil and gas producers. EPA said that 70% of the disclosures listed at least one ingredient claimed as confidential business information.

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