Shale gas extraction requires a large amount of water in order to be productive. Much of the water is used in the process of hydraulic fracturing, which injects water at high pressure in to a well in order to fracture the rock and allow for a greater amount of gas to escape. Without hydraulic fracturing, the production capacity of the well is limited.
Concerns have been raised about the impact of shale gas exploration on water resources in the United States. Below is an exploration of some of the key issues:
Some have concerns that the increased demand for water caused by drilling for shale gas could put pressure on natural ecosystems or industries in which clean water is required. Companies must purchase water rights and obey all applicable laws when obtaining water for proejcts.
Water Treatment and Disposal:
Waste water from gas production contains natural contaminants and chemicals. Just like water produced by our cities and towns, it requires treatment at an appropriate facility before it can be released or disposed of by deep-well injection. The cost for this is paid for by the energy company.
Some feel that the large amounts of waste water may have a negative effect on water ways or groundwater through seepage or spills. Seepage and spills are closely guarded. No one involved wants to harm the environment or face the costs of lost product and clean up. There are multiple protections to ensure that this does not happen, required by both regulators and the industry, making these events few and far between.
American Petroleum Institute’s website about water quality issues related to oil and gas.
EPA site about waste water and hydraulic fracturing: