Will Water Issues Constrain Oil and Gas Production in the United States?

Bridget R. Scanlon, Svetlana Ikonnikova, Qian Yang, Robert C. Reedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The rapid growth in U.S. unconventional oil and gas has made energy more available and affordable globally but brought environmental concerns, especially related to water. We analyzed the water-related sustainability of energy extraction, focusing on: (a) meeting the rapidly rising water demand for hydraulic fracturing (HF) and (b) managing rapidly growing volumes of water co-produced with oil and gas (produced water, PW). We analyzed historical (2009-2017) HF water and PW volumes in âˆ73â»000 wells and projected future water volumes in major U.S. unconventional oil (semiarid regions) and gas (humid regions) plays. Results show a marked increase in HF water use, and depleting groundwater in some semiarid regions (e.g., by ≤58 ft [18 m]/year in Eagle Ford). PW from oil reservoirs (e.g., Permian) is âˆ15× higher than that from gas reservoirs (Marcellus). Water issues related to both HF water demand and PW supplies may be partially mitigated by closing the loop through reuse of PW for HF of new wells. However, projected PW volumes exceed HF water demand in semiarid Bakken (2.1×), Permian Midland (1.3×), and Delaware (3.7×) oil plays, with the Delaware oil play accounting for âˆ50% of the projected U.S. oil production. Therefore, water issues could constrain future energy production, particularly in semiarid oil plays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3510-3519
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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