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White Paper: Current Use and Trends of Reuse in the Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Project: 14-05
Estimated Release: 2016
Type: White Paper

Program: Principal
Funding Partner: NA
Total Investment: $36,102 (Cash: $ 24,999, In-Kind cash and service: $ 11,103)

Principal Investigator: Christopher Bellona, Ph.D., Colorado School of Mines


Water reuse is playing an increasing role in water management for the oil and gas industry. Wastewater disposal and water acquisition costs are driving many companies to treat and reuse water for hydraulic fracturing which can consume 5-10 million gallons per well. In the Eagle Ford shale, for example, water reuse rate have risen from 1% in 2009 to 30% in 2014. Flowback and produced waters from hydraulic fracturing, often high in total dissolved solids, inorganics and organics, can be treated and reused in subsequent hydraulic fracturing operations assuming that the treatment level is commensurate with additives and propagating agents used for hydraulic fracturing. In situations where the hydraulic fracturing wastewater quality is good (e.g. fracturing operations in coal bed methane formations), water reuse may provide a viable source of water for other purposes such as agricultural irrigation or as an augmentation water for municipal and industrial uses. Volumes of water for reuse are expected to increase in the west due to water availability constraints. Water reuse in eastern shale plays is expected to increase due to limited alternative disposal options. Both regions will benefit from declining treatment costs for water reuse due to emerging economies of scale and maturation of relevant technologies. Reused water from other sources, such as mine drainage, may provide an alternative source of water to hydraulic fracturing operations

Goals and Objectives

The project will identify the current status and future trends for water reuse in oil and gas hydraulic fracturing operations. The final report will evaluate treatment technologies, costs of reuse as a limiting factor to its implementation, and regulatory trends both promoting and impeding reuse.

Research Approach

This project will fund experts in the field of water reuse to provide a current state of the science/engineering for hydraulic fracturing water reuse including:

  • Current information on where (by state and/or geologic play) water reuse is used in the oil and gas industry, including annual volumes of reused water.
  • The current technologies/processes used for hydraulic fracturing water treatment and reuse.
  • Cost/benefit comparisons between underground injection disposal and reuse in different geologic plays.
  • Review of water reuse guidance and regulation by states containing significant shale gas resources, including water quality required for reused water.
  • Extent, or volumes, of reused water from alternative sources (e.g. POTWs, mine drainage)

The white paper will also project future trends for water reuse in the shale gas hydraulic fracturing industry including:

  • Estimations of wastewater generated from hydraulic fracturing over the next 10 years.
  • Projections on if and where (by state and/or geologic play) water reuse will play an increasingly important role in water management for the oil and gas industry.
  • The role of alternative sources of water for hydraulic fracturing operations.
  • The potential for the growth of water reuse in managing hydraulic fracturing wastewater.

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