Fracking operators are improving their water management, and using more waterless and water-efficient fracturing technologies, such as treating produced water for recycle and reuse, according to a US Government Accountability Office technology assessment.
This is part of their overall strategy to reduce cost, improve operational efficiency, and reduce the demand for freshwater.
The study also says while dry and hybrid (wet-dry) cooling systems are highly water-efficient technologies to cool thermoelectric power plants, these technologies cost more than conventional wet cooling systems. This may result in an energy penalty that requires more fuel to be burnt per unit of electricity produced, thereby reducing the net electricity output from the plant.
The GAO says emerging cooling technologies that may help reduce water use in wet recirculating cooling systems are at the prototype or conceptual stage of development, and their effectiveness at saving water for power plant cooling applications is still uncertain.
The market for frac water management is estimated to be worth $1.9 billion, not including water transportation and disposal, as operators are tapping new technologies to tighten up water management strategies and lower costs, according to an August report from Lux Research.