From Matt Badiali, editor, The S&A Resource Report:
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is the new bogeyman in environmental circles. Fracking is the process oil companies use to crack rocks to allow oil and gas to flow to the surface.
It spews hydrocarbons into aquifers, makes faucets explode with flames, and is cruel to the rocks themselves. Hollywood made several movies, vilifying this horrific process.
Most damning of all, it uses fresh water in the process. Water needed to drink, irrigate crops, and maintain golf courses.
The truth of the matter is far more complex than I want to get into today. However, there are some important points I'd like to make about water consumption.
Water consumption data is woefully inadequate. The latest U.S. government data is from 2005... far too old to get a handle on fracking use. However, I have some data from Texas that puts fracking's consumption into perspective.
In the Eagle Ford, wells take about 7 million gallons of water to frack. Each well holds about 200,000 barrels of oil (or 8,400,000 gallons of oil). That means we get about 1.2 gallons of oil for each gallon of water we use.
That's actually quite conservative compared to ethanol from corn. You see, it takes 3 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol...unless you take into account actually growing the corn.
It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce one bushel of corn. That will make about 2.5 gallons of ethanol. It actually takes 1,003 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol by my calculation.
We produce over 800,000 barrels (33,600,000 gallons) of ethanol per day. That puts daily water consumption for ethanol around 100 million gallons per day. The corn crop used another 13.8 trillion gallons.
To put that into perspective, we would have to frack about 2 million Eagle Ford wells per year to use as much water as the corn crop and ethanol production. That's about 5,500 wells per day, an absurd number.
Once you get a little perspective, you can see that fracking isn't quite the bad-guy it's made out to be.
Let us take the emotion out of the subject and get realistic.