To be in the oil business means you are also in the water business. Wells are drilled with water, frac’d with water, and then produce water. Here’s a simple chart of water demand in the US. This is the water required to drill and complete wells on land each year:
US Oilfield Water Demand (billions of barrels)
The 2019 forecast assumes that West Texas oil prices hover around $65, muting additional drilling growth while the industry waits for pipelines to be built.
6 billion barrels of water sounds like a lot. Most of this demand is associated with frac work and a lot of today’s frac water is actually recycled… taking the water flowing out of old wells and using it to frac new wells. So maybe 3 billion barrels are bought fresh across the US each year. Still a lot, but how does that compare with other water uses?
Consider just two counties in the western desert of the US: Maricopa County is where Phoenix and its myriad golf courses are located. This is the number one county in the US for water use on golf courses – 0.7 billion barrels per year. Palm Springs, California is about 0.3 billion barrels per year. Pretty much all of this is fresh; almost none is recycled.
The oil industry is trying hard to become water neutral over the next decade… where no additional water is required for drilling and completing new wells.
Who else is attempting this herculean task?