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James Stafford

James Stafford

James Stafford is the Editor of Oilprice.com

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Recycling: The Future of Fracking

The “hydraulic” part of the fracking equation means buying a lot of water and then paying to get rid of it once it’s been tainted. So figuring out how to help companies recycle frack water is an emerging business opportunity that could be worth countless billions. But we’re not there quite yet—it still costs more to use recycled frack water in shale plays where water is plentiful and disposal wells numerous. Right now if you look at plays where there aren’t enough disposal wells, frack water recycling is becoming the norm. At the same time, the price gap is closing, gradually, for recycling in arid areas where water is harder to come by.  We’re eyeing the companies who are poised to take advantage of what will certainly be the future of fracking

But before we take you through the companies who are hedging their bets on the profits to be made on recycling frack water, let’s take a look at the costs and the latest technological advancements.  

The background to this story takes us back to the Barnett shale in Texas, where the shale boom really started off. At that time, water was fairly affordable and operators could pretty easily get rid of the chemical-laden frack water in disposal wells. So obtaining and getting rid of frack water hasn’t been a huge problem—but it is an expensive one.

Recycling frack water is still a relatively new idea—more so, recycling frack water for use as drinking water. Re-using treated frack water in the fracking process itself is growing on companies as it proves it can be economically viable, environmentally safer and in the long-term a hedge against dwindling water supplies.

In Texas, where hydraulic fracturing uses up around 50% of water in some counties, recycling for fracking re-sue could have a significant impact. In Colorado, where fracking accounts for only about one-tenth of a percent of all water consumed, the impact is less significant, but recycling is still a major issue here.

Companies are coming under increasing pressure to recycle their frack water, especially in key shale boom areas that are dry and drought-prone—like Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin.

A University of Texas study, funded by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, concludes that the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing will level off starting in 2020 as water recycling technologies mature and the industry’s rapid growth…




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