For years geologists believed rock formations in the earth holding vast deposits of natural gas and oil were untouchable. Then mid-twentieth century hydraulic fracturing or frac’ing was introduced, and things changed. The term has become more widely known and refers to the process of drilling a well and injecting fluid into the ground in order to fracture shale rock to release natural gas and oil inside. But one key component in this process is becoming more precious every day.
“The idea of how they frack is the same whether it’s natural gas or oil,” said Wes Wiliams, President of Water Rescue Services. “And in order to make that work you have to have water.”
Water, mixed with small amounts of sand and other additives, is injected at high pressure into formations to create these fractures. And as Jimmy Davis attests, it takes more than just a few gallons.
“We’re using around sixteen thousand barrels a day,” said Davis who works with Fasken Oil and Ranch in Midland.
For a long time the water used in frac’ing would become worthless when the process was over and wasting this dwindling resource always caused controversy. But now, thanks to new-patented technology combined with an old method known as electro-coagulation, a large portion of frac’ing water can be recycled and reused.
“We take flow back and produced water,” said Williams. “Water that they would normally throw away we take that water and process it through our patented system and instead of throwing it away they can re-use the water so it saves hundreds of millions of gallons of water over time that would normally be thrown away.”
Fasken Oil and Ranch has been in the oil industry for over sixty years and they’re currently one of Water Rescue Services clients. Like many people in Texas, Davis has seen water become a scarce commodity.
“It’s becoming nearly liquid gold” said Davis. “It’s precious again out here in West Texas. We’re in a drought and it’s hard to come by on this ranch that we’re on that we own. We don’t have a lot of fresh water so we’re trying to do everything we can do to preserve that fresh water.”
Now, with the help of Water Rescue Services which is based out of Fort Worth, Fasken Oil and Ranch has drastically reduced the amount of fresh water they use in frac’ing.
“That’s taking up about sixty percent of our water needs with the recycled water,” said Davis. “We have another thirty percent that we’re using to frack with and we’re down to only using ten percent fresh water.”
“We’re saving about seven point eight million gallons a month just on this one site,” said Williams.
There are some people who believe frac’ing can be detrimental to the environment and may produce safety and health hazards. Williams says Water Rescue Services is not in the frac’ing business, but the goal is to help those in the industry minimize their environmental impact and water waste.
“For every one hundred trucks that would normally be on the road tearing up the roads with our process you only need five for every one hundred because we are going to return about ninety five percent of the water,” said Williams.
While the debate over the controversial issues of frac’ing remains a hot topic, it would seem most people agree saving water is good idea. And as long as frac’ing remains a popular way to access these natural resources deep underground, water will be needed.
Watch the video above reported by Angela Hamann.