PART I: What 20 Months of Water Consumption for Fracking in the U.S. Looks Like
SkyTruth has been looking over industry-reported data from FracFocus.org to see what we can learn about hydraulic fracturing activity across the U.S. One topic we were curious about was the volume of water being used by fracking operations.
According to a report on modern shale gas prepared for the U.S. Dept. of Energy and others by the Groundwater Protection Council (one of the managers of the FracFocus website):
"[t]he amount of water needed to drill and fracture a horizontal shale gas well generally ranges from about 2 million to 4 million gallons, depending on the basin and formation characteristics."
While that is a lot of water, does the data voluntarily reported match this estimate, and what does that look like repeated thousands of times across the U.S.?
We ranked the leading operators based on the number of reported wells with a Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Product Component Information Disclosure on FracFocus.org and this is what we found:
Looking at these numbers, we find that the industry estimate is fairly accurate but it varies significantly by state. The main variable for the volume of water is the geology of the basin being fracked. Stimulating a conventional shallow well for oil in the Coconino formation of Utah takes much less than an unconventional well in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania, and in some cases, like California's Monterrey Shale, are ideally suited for low-volume fracking with an average of only 167,506 gallons.
But even with small fracks, water volumes in the hundreds of thousands of gallons add up to 65.9 billion gallons, so we decided to see what that total volume would look like in the real world. However, a few notes about the data:
- Our analyses are based only on the information which is voluntarily reported by participating companies. We have posted before on the lack of complete disclosure on FracFocus, but for measuring quantities, we can easily assume that our calculations will be conservative.
- Some fracking jobs reuse "produced water" from other jobs, but because it is listed by so many different names, we have not differentiated the amount recycled.
With these considerations in mind, you can see that between January 2011 and August 2012, a total of 20 months, the U.S. used at least 65.9 billion gallons of water to frack for oil and gas, with Texas accounting for almost half of all water use. But as big as these numbers are, what does that look like in the real world?
Visualizing 65.9 Billion Gallons of Frackwater:
To put in perspective the immense volume that this is, we turned our attention to an iconic feature that epitomizes massive quantities of water: Niagara Falls. Standing 167 feet tall between New York, U.S.A. and Ontario, Canada, at least 100,000 cubic feet water flow over these cataracts every second during the daylight hours of summer. (As opposed to be diverted to produce hydro-electric power, an international treaty mandates that at least 100,000 cf/s of flow be maintained during the tourist season to ensure "an unbroken curtain of water.")
The minimum rate of flow that is guaranteed to tourists translates to three-quarters of a million gallons per second . We asked, at this rate, how long would it take for 65.9 billion gallons to thunder over the ledge and onto the Maid of the Mist below? Let's do the math...
1 cubic foot= 7.48 gallons so 100,000 cf/s=748,052 gal./second
748,052 g/s x 60 seconds = 44,883,120 gal./minute
44.88 million gal./min. x 60 min. per hour= 2,692,980,000 gal. /hr. = 100,000 cf/s
So all that leads us to this conclusion:
65,899,611,396 gal. ÷ 2,692,980,000 gal. /hr. = 24.47 hours
At this rate, we can now see it would take over a day for Niagara Falls to represent the 65.9 billion gallons of water the United States has been drawing from rivers, lakes, and streams, trucking or piping to wellpads, lacing with toxic chemicals, mixing with tons of sand (check back in a few days to find out how much sand and where it comes from), and injecting deep into the ground to get oil and gas.
Keep in mind that all of this water either stays in the ground OR returns to the surface as an industrial waste product that is sometimes mildly radioactive, and that is just based on what has been reported to FracFocus. Now that is a LOT of water...
There are many videos of Niagara Falls, but this has a particular SkyTruthiness to it since we are always interested in remote sensing tools like this for obtaining the aerial imagery that defines SkyTruth. (Start at 1:20 for the launch of the RC craft)
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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