In Texas, where hydraulic fracturing operations use up more than fifty percent of water use in certain counties, recycling of frack water could significantly impact the stressed resource. To date, only a small fraction of the water used for hydraulic fracturing is currently recycled. However, several factors indicate that recycling of frack water will likely grow.
Companies are under increasing pressure to decrease their use of freshwater in dry areas such as Texas and Colorado, where fracking is prevalent and droughts with water shortages are not going away. In Texas, the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin are some of the state’s driest regions. The same can be said of Colorado.
As this pressure rises, state and federal regulators are beginning to incentivize recycling of frack water. For example, the Texas Railroad Commission recently adopted new rules to encourage recycling by no longer requiring operators to obtain a permit for recycling if they are on their own leased or owned land. Additionally, the rules allow operators to transfer frack water for recycling onto another operator’s land without a permit. The Environmental Protection Agency is also expected to implement rules encouraging recycling of frack water.
Recycling the water may also prove to be in the best economic interest of companies. Although exploration and production companies have been concerned that recycling would be too costly and that recycled water would reduce well output, companies are more recently reusing flowback water and reporting good results as well as cost savings. In light of the high costs associated with transporting water during fracking operations, companies should welcome recycling of frack water because it may decrease, if not eliminate, the need for a lot of the trucking to disposal wells.
Another indicator that recycling of frack water is on the rise is that recycling technologies are improving and maturing, which should make recycling frack water less expensive and more attractive.
Media Coverage Resources:
- “Frack water recycling is uncommon, but may grow” (Northern Colorado Business Report)
- “Analysis: Fracking water’s dirty little secret – recycling” (Reuters)
- “As Fracking Increases, So Do Fears About Water Supply” (The New York Times)
- “Texas Study Finds Increase in Water Used for Fracking” (The Texas Tribune)