Overall, the US fracking industry will spend $6.38 billion in 2014 on water management, including water supply, transport, storage, treatment and disposal. Water transport and disposal costs will account for 66 percent of the total water management spend this year, with treatment comprising roughly 2 percent.
Another driver of reuse is the increasing cost of transport and injecting water into wells — now accounting for 66 percent of water services spending — and the improving cost structures of treatment.
According to the report, well operators that employ treatment and reuse solutions spend on average $8.80 per barrel of water used compared to $10.20 per barrel of water trucked and injected into wells, although cost comparisons are site specific.
According to Reese Tisdale of Bluefield, fracking has been the “wild west” for the US water industry for three reasons: the explosive build-out of fracking well installations, the lack of clear regulation on water management in key markets, and because there is not a consistent treatment solution for fracking.
Tisdale adds that these challenges are changing, partially due to significant gains in water management experience, realized adoption of more efficient water management strategies among well operators, and the emergence of new policy mechanisms from regulators that are playing catch-up with the fast-moving fracking industry.
A Ceres research paper last year recommended that hydraulic fracturing operations should scale up their use of recycled water and non-freshwater resources, and practice better water management planning if shale energy production is to grow as projected.
A report released last year by the Freedonia Group said that US demand for water treatment chemicals will reach $6.7 billion in 2017, driven in part by growth in the oil, gas and mining industries.