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How Shale Gas Firms Could Cut Water Costs

Shale gas companies could benefit financially and cut water use by collaborating with regulators and sharing infrastructure with other operators working in the same drilling basin, according to a report from global consulting firm Accenture.

Each shale drilling basin in the US typically supports several companies, each which their own network of machinery and trucks, the report says. Collaboration, such as sharing logistics, excess capacity and infrastructure, could reduce the impact on a basin. Companies could also work together to improve water treatment, for example through a shared regional facility, a key option to overcome the challenges of increased regulation.

The report, “Water and Shale Gas Development: Leveraging the US Experience in New Shale Developments” examines shale resources, water regulation and water management options as well as possibilities for development in Argentina, China, Poland and South Africa.

The study outlines key findings from shale development in the United States and provides recommendations operators could use as fracking in shale plays expands in other parts of the world.

Accenture found that data collection and management is critical and needs to be planned early to satisfy regulators and understand environmental impacts. It also found water management options can change and investment in creative water management, particularly water treatment solutions, is worthwhile.

Aside from collaborating with other companies, the report recommends operators upgrade their data management capabilities and look for ways to recycle higher water volumes at lower costs.

Given the intensity and scale of water movement requirements for shale gas, operators should consider making logistics a key part of their development strategy and actively pursue collaboration opportunities in new locations, the report says.

A report released by Stony Brook University last year found the disposal of contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing wells producing natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region presents risks from salts and radioactive materials that are “several orders of magnitude larger” than for other potential water pollution events.

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