• 3 minutes Oil Price Could Fall To $30 If Global Deal Not Extended
  • 8 minutes Why Is America (Texas) Burning Millions of Dollars Per Day Of Natural Gas?
  • 11 minutes Is $60/Bbl WTI still considered a break even for Shale Oil
  • 15 minutes CNN:America's oil boom will break more records this year. OPEC is stuck in retreat
  • 9 mins The Pope: "Climate change ... doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain."
  • 8 hours Hormuz and surrounding waters: Energy Threats to the World: Oil, LNG, shipping markets digest new risks after Strait of Hormuz attack
  • 12 hours As Iran Nuclear Deal Flounders, France Turns To Saudi For Oil
  • 7 hours The Magic and Wonders of US Shale Supply: Keeping energy price shock minimised: US oil supply keeping lid on prices despite global risks: IEA chief
  • 16 hours Middle East on brink: Oil tankers attacked off Oman
  • 8 hours Russia removes special military forces from Venezuela . . . . Maduro gone by September ? . . . Oil starts to flow ? Think so . .
  • 10 hours Never Knew Gasoline Prices were this important!
  • 9 hours (Un)expectedly: UK Court Sets Assange U.S. Extradition Hearing For February 2020
  • 1 day Emmissions up, renewables nowhere
  • 5 hours We Are Better Than This
  • 1 day Magic of Shale: EXPORTS!! Crude Exporters Navigate Gulf Coast Terminal Constraints
  • 1 day Only one country is contemplating destroying its own resource sector: Canada
  • 1 day Britain makes it almost 12 days with NO COAL
Alt Text

Oil Inches Higher On Falling Rig Count

Oil prices inched higher at…

Alt Text

Oil Flat Despite Middle East Tensions

Oil markets appear to have…

Alt Text

Escalating Trade War Signals More Pain For Oil

The quick resolution of the…

Post Carbon

Post Carbon

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, environmental, and equity…

More Info

Trending Discussions

Future Energy Production Threatened by Water Shortages

When we flip on a light, we rarely think about water.  But electricity generation is the biggest user of water in the United States.  Thermoelectric power plants alone use more than 200 billion gallons of water a day – about 49 percent of the nation’s total water withdrawals.

Large quantities of water are needed as well for the production, refining and transport of the fuels that light and heat our homes and buildings, and run our buses and cars.  Every gallon of gasoline at the pump takes about 13 gallons of water to make.

And of course hydroelectric energy requires water to drive the turbines that generate the power.  For every one-foot drop in the level of Lake Mead on the Colorado River, Hoover Dam loses 5-6 megawatts of generating capacity – enough to supply electricity to about 5,000 homes.

In short, energy production is deeply dependent on the availability of water.  And, as a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) makes clear, as climate change brings hotter temperatures, more widespread and severe droughts, and lower river and lake levels, the nation’s energy supply is becoming more vulnerable.

Consider these examples from the DOE report:

•    In September 2010, Lake Mead dropped to levels not seen since the drought of 1956; as a result, the Bureau of Reclamation cut Hoover Dam’s generating capacity by 23 percent.

•    In 2009, NV Energy abandoned plans for a 1,500 Megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant that would have used more than 7.1 million gallons of water per hour.

•    Extreme drought in the fall of 2011 led the city of Grand Prairie, Texas, to ban the use of municipal water for hydraulic fracturing in order to save the city’s dwindling drinking water supply.   [Related: As Oil and Gas Drilling Competes for Water, One New Mexico County says No].

•    In 2007, 2010 and 2011, the Tennessee Valley Authority had to reduce power output from its Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama because the temperature of the river into which the plant discharges was high enough to raise ecological risks.

Oilprice.com Premium: Get the same inside information as the CEOs of Exxon, Chevron and BP - as fast as they get it, often before they get it

•    In the summer of 2012, low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada curtailed California’s hydroelectric generating capacity by 8 percent.

•    At the Martin Lake Steam Electric Station in Texas, drought so reduced the level of its cooling pond that cooling water had to be piped in from another water source eight miles away.

coal fired power plant
Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant on North Carolina’s Catawba River. Nationwide, thermoelectric power production requires more than 200 billion gallons of water a day, most of it to cool the plants. Duke Energy plans to retire Riverbend in 2015 as part of its effort to modernize its power stations. Photo: Flickr/cc/Duke Energy

One particularly interesting figure in the report compares the water requirements of seven different types of electric power facilities – nuclear, coal, biopower, natural gas combined-cycle, concentrated solar, photovoltaic solar and wind.  The last two come out as by far the most water-conserving electricity sources.  In contrast to the 20,000-60,000 gallons per megawatt-hour needed for nuclear and coal plants with “once-through” cooling systems, PV solar and wind require only negligible quantities.

Coal fired power plant locations

Locations of the 100 coal-fired power plants most vulnerable to water stress. Courtesy U.S. Department of Energy.

Of the one hundred coal-fired power plants deemed to be most vulnerable to water shortages, most are located in the southeastern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina (see map). In these states, water for cooling may be constrained by low river flows, high water temperatures or both – forcing utilities to cut back on power generation.

On balance the study’s findings make a strong case for a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources to shore up the nation’s energy security in the face of climate change.

Oilprice.com Premium: Find out first about the latest technology and technology investments being made by energy industry insiders

If there’s a call to action in the DOE assessment, it’s this:  If, by 2050, the United States could get 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources – with nearly half coming from water-thrifty wind and solar photovoltaic generation – then total water consumption in the U.S. power sector would decline by about half.

Given the projections for climate-related disruptions to the water cycle, there is little time to waste in making this transition.

Posted by. Sandra Postel




Download The Free Oilprice App Today

Back to homepage

Trending Discussions


Leave a comment
  • theblame "e" on July 25 2013 said:
    Well, why don't the energy producers just "frack" some water up? They've fracked-up gas. They've fracked-up oil. They've fracked everything else up. Water should be easy. They could start by just claiming that America will be water independent by 2015.

Leave a comment





Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News