Water for Fracking

Produced water, flowback water and treated (recycled) water.

As in many debates, sides have become polarized over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”—the process of using highly pressured water and chemicals to coax oil and gas out of shale-rock formations.

One point of contention in the hydraulic fracturing discussion is the use of water in the fracking process. Fracking fluid is 90% water, with a small percentage of sand and an even smaller percentage of chemicals; some of these chemicals are common household substances, and some are “proprietary” additives that the industry prefers not to reveal. Beyond the question of what’s in the water lies the issue that 5 million gallons of water are required to frack an average well. This is an enormous investment, particularly in drought-prone areas of the country.

There are two basic sides of the argument: oil and gas industry advocates point out that in Texas, an area that has recently suffered from serious drought, 31% of residential water is consumed outside of homes. In 2010, this accounted for slightly less than 500 billion gallons, while in 2011, fracking accounted for less than 27 billion gallons. In other words, Texans used 18.5 times more water than the fracking industry did, just by watering their lawns. On the other hand, anti-fracking activists point out that water used both in and outside of homes is returned to the system through water treatment plants or natural water cycling, while as much as 80% of the water injected into a fracked well will never return to the surface.

Regardless of which side of the debate you prefer, water consumption is a major concern. The industry has responded by addressing these concerns with improved technology and innovations. Many have begun exploring recycling technologies, as well as alternative sources in order to reduce their dependency on potable water. Other companies are experimenting with the use of brackish water, or even the use of water substitutes such as propane, butane or pentane.

Both flowback and produced water (types of water than come to the surface during the lifetime of a fracked well) is murky and dirty looking, due to a high level of dissolved solids. At a minimum, these solids must be removed to make the water usable for further fracking efforts. Using techniques ranging from filtering to static charges, several different companies with competing technologies are developing viable and cost effective ways to remove those solids, which can then be disposed of in landfills. Other companies are taking the recycling effort one step further in a more expensive process that claims the recycled water is safe to discharge directly into rivers and lakes or could even be used for agricultural purposes.

Regardless of the specific technology used, BTL Liners is pleased to help oilfield companies store water safely and reliably, both through the fracking process and the recycling process. BTL pioneered the development of heavyweight reinforced polyethylene (RPE) geomembrane liners, and our proprietary line offers an impressive array of features that will answer your water containment needs for years to come. Whether you’re using in-ground storage pits or portable tanks, we can fabricate panels to your exact specifications. Please contact us at 800-280-0712 or 541-447-0712 for more information about our products and services.

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