Texas Alliance of Energy Producers Comments on Duke University Press Release

Texas Alliance of Energy Producers  Comments on Duke University Press Release


August 20, 2017

By Alliance President John Tintera


Duke University issued a press release on August 15, 2018 based on their recent study “The intensification of the water footprint of hydraulic fracturing”  using the headline, “WATER USE FOR FRACKING (SIC) HAS RISEN BY UP TO 770 PERCENT SINCE 2011.”

The Alliance appreciates the numerous Duke University researchers, the significant resources, and likely substantial funding poured into its publications and  press coverage of hydraulic fracturing.  This is especially notable since the Energy Information Administration stated in a 2017 report that “North Carolina does not have any crude oil reserves or production.”

However, the latest Duke University analysis can be summed up for the average reader as follows: if you use water to drill oil wells, and you drill more and bigger oil wells, you will use more water.   

This now begs the question: is there a lack of water regulation in Texas?   Or, perhaps the amount of water being used is such a huge volume that other industries are suffering?

Let’s dispose of the arguments quickly. Water use for shale gas in Texas was reported at less than 1% of statewide water withdrawals according to the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology. Even the more recent Duke study was forced to admit the hydraulic fracturing water withdrawals nationwide is negligible compared to other industrial water use.

As for oil production in Texas, the facts from the Railroad Commission of Texas are obvious. In 2011 Texas crude oil production equaled 525.5 million barrels. In 2018, Texas crude oil production will exceed 1.5 billion barrels. Those numbers speak for themselves.

Water use by Texas oil companies is significantly regulated in Texas. The regulations parallel state water laws, which are a complex mix of right of capture, conservation, and private property rights.

Surface water use is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and permits are required for its oilfield use.

Groundwater is typically privately owned in Texas.  The purchase of groundwater from the landowner is a private contractual agreement between landowner and oil company and the landowner profits from the agreement.

Section 36.117 (b) (2) of the Texas Water Code provides that, “drilling a water well used solely to supply water for a rig that is actively engaged in drilling or exploration operations for an oil or gas well … located on the same lease or field associated with the drilling rig” is allowed. This “drilling and exploration” includes hydraulic fracturing. These rig supply wells may be subject to water well spacing rules imposed by the ground water district, and the district may require the well to be registered and ensure it is properly equipped and completed.

 Oil field water re-use and recycling is encouraged by regulations in  Texas. Thanks to an advanced and far-sighted regulatory framework, oilfield water recycling is an active, encouraged, regulated, economic factor in our Texas oil fields. The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) has passed significant water and wellbore fluid recycling regulations that regulate by rule, rather than require numerous discrete permits (Rule 8 (d)(7)(B) and §4.202(d) ) and by regulations Chapter 4, Subchapter B. This is called Permit by Rule.

As the RRC states “Some recycling of wellbore fluids under the jurisdiction of RRC (including produced formation water, completion/workover fluids, and fracture flow-back fluids) may be treated and reused without a permit as authorized (by rule). Under these rules, operators and contractors may recycle fluids from the lease, unit, or facility from which the fluid was generated as well as fluids from other leases or operators.”

With these far-sighted regulations, Texas is the center for innovative and cost-effective water recycling technology. Many service companies offer this technology, and many oil companies use it. As the technology advances, the model regulations will encourage water recycling as it becomes competitive compared to the purchase of new water.

In summary, Texas oil and gas production has dramatically increased since 2011, as has the number of producing wells in Texas. It is to be expected  that water use would increase at the same time. Water purchase and use by oil companies for hydraulic fracturing is an investment in the Texas economy and in America’s national energy independence.  It is a policy decision that fuels our economic prosperity through jobs, local and state taxes, and royalty payments to our citizens and our state. Just as important, water recycling in our oilfields is now fully supported by innovative regulations and increasing technological and economic improvements.

We are belt bustin’ and chest thumpin’ proud of these Texas-sized facts.


John Tintera, President

Texas Alliance of Energy Producers

1000 West Avenue, Ste B, Austin, Texas   78701