I've been thru the Permian Basin twice in 2017; both the Midland and Delaware sub-basins. Three times in 2016. The infrastructure for fresh, potable frac-water being used to drill and complete unconventional wells is staggering. You have to see it, to believe it. Every bar ditch on every highway, every paved Farm to Market road, every gravel county and lease road is laced with 6 inch water lines, and booster pumps as far as you can see, like spaghetti. There are frac ponds full of fresh water everywhere. For every commercial fresh water well facility in the Permian selling water to operators... there are three SWD facilities disposing of frac flow back water below ground nearby. I suspect there are now more vacuum trucks hauling water in West Texas than there are jack rabbits.
And, in spite of the bullshit about blending produced water with fresh water, or recycling produced water for frac'ing purposes, or using municipal wastewater, or brackish water...I have not seen much of any of that in two years. Its there, I guess (I've read the investor presentations by shale companies about water). Or, they are just now getting around to "studying" the problem.* but when I asked folks, like vacuum truck drivers, about blending or recycling facilities, they gave me that 1000 yard stare and laughed.
Those 15 and 18 million pound (frac sand) jobs they are now pumping in the Permian require upwards of 600,000 barrels of water. If all of that is fresh, and I believe most of it is fresh, that's enough water for 296,000 people to use in one day... more people than live in the Midland/Odessa metroplex combined. One well! And there are over 250 wells per month currently being completed in the Permian Basin.
If I am mistaken and even half of that water is fresh water, suited for human beings, its still too much coming from under and an arid desert like West Texas. That sort of water use is being allowed because there is a whole lot of lying going on about the water required to extract unconventional oil and all anybody can see at the moment is dollar signs. Even regulators charged with watching over Texas water are turning a blind eye to all this, in the name of tax revenue. Some folks now want to send fresh water thru pipelines from further west, at the base of the Guadalupe Mountains, east into the Delaware Basin to drill even more shale oil wells. Water is worth more than the land itself in West Texas.
Light tight unconventional oil in the Permian Basin is basically oil we have too damn much of in America and cannot refine properly. Its too light and we're full up with the stuff. So, this American oil is now being exported to foreign countries, like China. Over 2,000,000 BOPD of exports, in fact. We're going to wish we had that oil back someday very soon; watch.
And this "stellar" energy policy we are embracing in the United States that allows us to produce as much of our remaining oil as possible, as fast as possible, regardless of profitability, to export it away, is costing those folks in West Texas lots of life-sustaining water. Its beyond stupid.
In the heart of the West Texas oil patch, a new fracking frenzy is putting a strain on groundwater.
by Christopher Collins with the Texas Observer
December 11, 2017