The rapid expansion in the use of hydraulic fracturing to unlock unconventional hydrocarbons over the last five years has created significant challenges in the management of water. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 3.3 billion barrels of water were used in 2010 for fracturing in North America. Costs associated with the management of water, from sourcing through disposal, have been estimated to comprise as much as 15% of the overall cost of a well (Slutz et al. 2012).
Reuse of produced and flowback water to reduce costs has been an area of focus within the industry, but has yet to become the standard practice. While cost-effective technical solutions exist to treat these waters for reuse as an alternative to fresh water, a more fundamental question remains: What is the long-term impact on production by changing from the accepted practice of freshwater use to the use of produced water for hydraulic fracturing?
This paper details a 10-year production analysis from a 48-well project completed in 2001 (Gupta and Hildek 2009). Comparing results using fresh water against those using flowback water for hydraulic fracturing suggests that reuse results in better initial production as well as equivalent production over 10 years.