Elpasonaturally has been following the recent acquisition of 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau by Torchlight Energy and their plans to frack as many as 2500 wells. See previous posts HERE and HERE.
Based on industry reports, the estimate for water used in one fracking operation is as low as 70,000 barrels or as high as 200,000 gallons. Assuming that a barrel equals 42 gallons, and noting Torchlight Energy's estimate that they may drill as many as 2500 wells on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas (just a hop from El Paso), then follow the math and weep and/or scream:
At the low end it takes about 2,940,000 gallons (70,000 barrels X 42 gallons/barrel) of water to "frack" one well. If you have 2500 wells as Torchlight Energy estimates may be the maximum number to drill on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, then you need 7.35 billion gallons of water. Fracking can use up to 200,000 gallons per well or 8,400,000 gallons of water. Again, if 2500 wells, then the total usage is 21 billion gallons of water. 21 billion gallons equals 60% of all the water EPWU sold in 2013. (In 2013 EPWU billed its retail and wholesale customers for 35.1 billion gallons of water.) At the low end it is a third of that but still a whole lot of water.
Where will Torchlight get all of that water?
I'm not saying that they will get it from El Paso. However, one wonders how much water there is below Dell City and the Diablo Plateau.
Of course, some of the water used in fracking is recycled - i.e., water that flows back from an operation along with all the toxic compounds or "produced" - water which results when some water which remains underground becomes more like the water naturally found in the shale. Unfortunately, the amount of such water is a small percentage of what is used. "In fact, according to a 2012 study by the Texas Water Development Board, only 2% of water in the Permian Basin and 5% of water in the Barnett Shale was recycled." This according to Power Shift.
What is more troubling is figuring out where all this water can go without contaminating drinking water. It can be re-injected into the geologic formations which often results in earthquakes and/or contaminates the aquifer. It can be passed on to local water treatment plants which may be overwhelmed and may not be able to filter out all of the toxic chemicals and thus further pass those obnoxious compounds down the river for all of its agricultural consumers to use on crops. Or this unsustainable "recycled" water is spilled on the ground which is too frequently the case. (Read the information in a National Geographic blog. Also see from the NY Times: Waste Water Recycling No Cure-All in Gas Process.
Bottom line: Torchlight Energy's proposed drilling on 172,000 acres just east of El Paso should frighten us all whether they drill 2500 wells eventually or much fewer. There ought to be an outcry but don't expect any of the El Paso media to raise an alarm. In fact, expect stories about how good the fracking will be for the El Paso economy. Sorry - but that's not only wrong but immoral.