The Potential for Water Reuse in Oil Production

Fracking has created an opportunity to harvest oil from areas that may have been partially depleted. However, there are some downsides to this technology. Fracking requires a very large amount of water to be used up front, and previously the water produced through fracking would then be injected back into the ground which can cause seismic activity and earthquakes. However, according to an article from Science Daily , the water that is used in each process could be recycled and be used in the fracking procedures multiple times, instead of having to inject it back into the ground each time.

The Permian Basin, located in a region covering west Texas and New Mexico, has been an active area for traditional oil production since the 1920’s, and hydraulic fracking has revitalized the oil production in the area, which could hold up to 20 billion barrels of oil. This amount of oil would of course require large amounts of fracking, and any attempt to improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of fracking would be immensely helpful. The average volume of water required to mine for oil has increased 10 times in the past decade as alternative means of drilling, such as hydraulic fracking, have become more prevalent. According to the study conducted in the article, “10 million gallons of water were used per well in the Midland Basin in 2015.” Conventional drilling methods would be able to inject the produced water into the depleted reservoirs, which would maintain the natural pressures that the oil created. However, due to the low permeability of the shales that the hydraulic fracking wells collect oil from, this cannot be done without potentially causing some levels of seismic activity. The article advocates that instead of injecting the produced water into the shale, the fracking operators could reuse the water produced by fracking to fracture the next set of wells. The water produced from fracking only needs minimal treatment to become usable. In conclusion, reusing this water could help dramatically reduce the effect that fracking has on the environment.

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