Fracking water use minimal, energy industry report says

Hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas consumed less than one-tenth of a percent of the water used in Colorado in 2010, a new report shows.

That amount could increase by about 4,800 acre-feet in 2015 from about 13,900 acre-feet in 2010, but that still would represent just a little more than a tenth of a percent of the state total, according to the study, prepared by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff with the help of the state Division of Water Resources.

An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.

The report assumes a fairly flat level of drilling activity over that time frame, and emphasizes that projecting activity levels is difficult. It also assumes a continuing increase in horizontal drilling, in which wells are drilled down and then horizontally into formations. Such drilling requires more water than vertical or directionally drilled wells because the part of the well to be fractured is longer.

Hydraulic fracturing entails blasting formations with a mix typically consisting of water, sand and other substances to foster oil and gas flow. The oil and gas commission studied the practice’s water requirements partly in response to a recommendation in an outside review last year of its hydraulic fracturing regulations.

The projected increase in demand by 2015 for hydraulic fracturing is less than water use in the state varies from year to year, the report says. It’s also slightly less than was used in snowmaking in 2010.

The report says agriculture accounted for about 85.5 percent of statewide water use in 2010, and municipal and industrial users 7.4 percent.

It also outlines a range of potential sources for fracturing water, such as transport from out of state, purchase of treated or raw drinking water or treated wastewater from municipal and other providers, and use of groundwater or diversions from waterways where feasible under state water law. Other options are use of water produced from underground during oil and gas development, and water recycled after use in other wells.


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