Friday, December 12, 2014

Report: Global Shale Gas Development And Water Availability

This is something that I have written about before in the context of shale gas development from Indian sedimentary basins. The availability of fresh water might set up conflicts with agriculture demands and limit exploitation of shale gas.

A report by the World Resources Institute on the global situation points out the same problem elsewhere in many areas of the world.

38 percent of shale resources are in areas that are either arid or under high to extremely high levels of water stress

19 percent are in areas of high or extremely high seasonal variability; and

15 percent are in locations exposed to high or extremely high drought severity.

Furthermore, 386 million people live on the land over these shale plays, and in 40 percent of the shale plays, irrigated agriculture is the largest water user. Thus drilling and hydraulic fracturing often compete with other demands for freshwater, which can result in conflicts with other water users. This is particularly true in areas of high baseline water stress, where over 40 percent of the available water supplies are already being withdrawn for agricultural, municipal, or industrial purposes.

China, Mexico, South Africa and India all have sedimentary basins with shale gas potential located in areas of high water stress i.e. extraction of either surface water and/or groundwater exceeds natural replenishment.

WRI Full Report On Shale Gas and Water Availability
WRI Executive Summary On Shale Gas and Water Availability

The report relies on EIA estimates of technically recoverable shale gas and tight oil. These numbers may be subject to revision as more detailed studies are taken up in sedimentary basins in India and other countries as well.

India is still some way away from exploitation of shale gas. It faces many other problems besides availability of water. This earlier post summarizes these issues.

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