Water needed for hydraulic fracking has more than doubled

Adapted from Rystad Energy Shale Intel – Water Management Services; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The amount of water needed for hydraulic fracturing operations has more than doubled in recent years and is slated to top 6 billion barrels in 2021, the consultancy Rystad Energy said in a note.

Why it matters: It's a metric of the massive scale of the U.S. oil boom that has sent production to record levels. That's largely thanks to growth in shale formations — most notably the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico — where hydrocarbons are pried loose using high-pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals.

What's next: A Rystad analyst said in the note that the industry will be able to get the water it needs as production grows and water demand soars with it.

  • "This surge is driven by both increased activity and higher proppant intensity. But even with such steep growth, market concerns about sourcing challenges and bottlenecks appear to be minimal,” Rystad SVP Ryan Carbrey said in a statement.

However, the report also warns of looming constraints for dealing with wastewater that comes out of wells.

  • "With produced water in the Permian set to increase by a third by 2021 there will be local disposal constraints, but at a macro level spare disposal capacity will remain," it states.

The big picture: The volumes of water needed to support the growth of shale production has long been an ecological concern.

Yesterday, the Energy Information Administration forecast that oil production from shale formations would rise by 62,000 barrels per day in February to reach 8.18 million barrels per day.

  • Via S&P Global Platts, the forecast rise of 23,000 barrels per day in the Permian basin "would be the lowest rate of monthly growth the EIA has forecast for the Permian since September 2016."

Go deeper: Study finds surging water volumes needed for fracking boom