The Next Big Hurdle for Oil and Gas is Water Use


In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner from 1834, English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously quipped “Water, water, everywhere / But not a drop to drink”. The lines speak to the irony of sailing the high seas: there’s unfathomable amounts of water in every direction, but it’s definitely not going to quench the thirst of any sailor.

Surprisingly, the situation is not as different on land as you might think.

In some counties in the U.S., especially those with lots of oil and gas activity, there are billions of gallons of waste water, brackish water, or saline water that aren’t potable for human consumption. At the same time, these counties are receiving limited rainfall, and freshwater has become an increasingly scarce and valuable commodity.


The fact is, horizontal drilling and fracking operations use large amounts of water. In 2008, an average of just 5,618 barrels of water were used for the injection stage of fracking according to the USGS. In 2014, that ballooned to 128,102 barrels of water for a oil well, and 162,906 barrels for a gas well.

Simultaneously, the Government Accountability Office estimates that 40 of 50 states have at least one region that will face some kind of water shortage by 2023. This crisis has increased social and regulatory pressures on oil and gas firms, while making the supply of usable water less dependable.

Today’s infographic comes to us from Barclays Bank, and it details this situation in depth. Further, Barclays explains how oil and gas companies will need to innovate their way out of the problem to secure new water supply and reduce costs – all while maintaining a social license to operate.

The Next Big Hurdle for Oil and Gas is Water Use

Barclays sees this problem as an opportunity: by re-thinking water use and disposal, and by turning recycled water into a new resource for other industries, oil and gas can decrease costs while giving a boost to their social license to operate.

Jeff Desjardins is a founder and editor of Visual Capitalist, a media website that creates and curates visual content on investing and business.

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