Fracking water usage in relation to a domestic activity

Water utilized to fracture (frack) an eight-stage horizontal oil and gas well can approach 5,000,000 gallons. How much is this in relation to watering our lawn?

New technology has provided an opportunity to produce oil and gas from conventional and unconventional geologic formations, the unconventional usually being several types of shales. This new technology includes multi-stage horizontal drilling, which allows a horizontal well to be placed in the geologic zone to be harvested, resulting in an underground area harvested that is much larger than a traditional vertical well. The wells drilled to date have utilized the largest spacing for the Glenwood Member geologic formation and below, which is 640 acres. This compares to the standard spacing of one vertical well per 40 acres which applies to the Traverse Formation. At these spacings, 16 vertical wells would be required to harvest the equivalent underground area of the horizontal well.

Because the amount of formation that is drilled into is so much larger, and due to the way in which the hydraulic fracture is performed (in stages with the use of packers for each each stage), the amount of water used to develop or fracture the horizontal well is much greater than for a traditional vertical well. For example, it is not uncommon to use 50,000 gallons of fresh water to develop a vertical Antrim well vs. 5,000,000 gallons on a multi-stage well.

How much water is 5,000,000 gallons? Most of us have lawns that we water and care for. A half-acre lawn irrigated with 0.3” water/day for 4 months has an application of 488,772 gallons of water. Ten lawns in a neighborhood of this size will utilize 4,887,772 gallons of water in a growing season. The hydraulic fracturing is a one-time event and the lawn watering occurs each year.

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Reference: “Hydraulic Fracturing of Natural Gas Wells in Michigan,” Michigan Office of Geological Survey Department of Environmental Quality (April 22, 2011)

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