Quantities of water associated with oil and gas development

Science Center Objects

Work in this task of the Oil and Gas Waters Project focuses on quantifying the water used during hydrocarbon development and the water produced along with oil and gas.  Hydraulic fracturing is an integral part of oil and gas development in many areas, and water use for this purpose has increased considerably in the last decade.   Water produced from petroleum reservoirs includes hydraulic fracturing water that flows back to the surface (“flowback water”) as well as water that naturally exists in the reservoir (“formation water”).  Produced water quantities vary substantially in both time and place (locally and between different petroleum producing areas), and the produced water can represent a resource or a waste product needing disposal. 

We provide assessments of these water quantities (water used and produced), as well as the proppant (typically sand) used for hydraulic fracturing, based directly on geology-based USGS oil and gas assessments.  In addition, we conduct related studies of water quantities used for hydraulic fracturing and water produced with oil and gas. 

We have developed a methodology for quantitative assessment of water and proppant (generally sand) potentially required for hydrocarbon production, along with water produced along with oil and gas.  This approach builds directly from USGS oil and gas assessments.  Our first water and proppant assessment was conducted in 2016, for the Bakken and Three Forks Formations, with summary results presented here.  Additional assessments are currently under way.