On September 12th, the World Resources Institute held an event to unveil their new report on the fresh water impacts of shale gas development. The WRI report examines the availability of freshwater across shale plays globally. Shale resources of natural gas, natural gas liquids and tight oil are extracted using hydrofracking techniques that require substantial quantities of water for every well drilled. The report offers the first global overview that cross references fresh water availability against shale gas resources. The report highlights the need to be aware that many of the world’s shale plays are in water constrained regions and that water constraints can potentially limit the ability to develop the resources.
The report draws important conclusions and recommendations around water governance, risk assessments and operator transparency before drilling begins. The final recommendation in the report highlights the need for drillers to limit the use of freshwater in their hydrofracking activities.
Read a 3-part Breaking Energy series on wastewater recycling technology here, and view an informational slideshow about natural gas drilling, well completion and production – including hydraulic fracturing – here.
The WRI report utilizes geospatial analysis using data from WRI’s own Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas combined with data on shale resources provided by West Virginia University and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). They have created an interactive map tool that enables the user to examine shale plays globally and visually observe the water risk assessments for that region. The report acknowledges the wide variability in water usage on a given drilling site and the wide seasonal fluctuations in water availability in any given area. The report acknowledges the complexity in determining water allocations and is not meant to offer guidance in determining the appropriateness of drilling in any given area but is meant as an informative tool to help offer a bird’s-eye view of the natural resources.