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The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction in China.

Publication ,  Journal Article
Gao, J; Zou, C; Zhang, X; Guo, W; Yu, R; Ni, Y; Liu, D; Kang, L; Liu, Y; Kondash, A; Vengosh, A
Published in: The Science of the total environment
January 2024

The rapid expansion of shale gas extraction worldwide has raised significant concerns about its impact on water resources. China is expected to undergo a shale revolution following the U.S. Most of the information on water footprint of shale gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing has been focused on the U.S. Here, we addressed this knowledge gap by establishing a comprehensive database of shale gas extraction in China, utilizing operational data from over 90 % of shale gas wells across the country. We present systematic analysis of water usage and flowback and produced water (FP water) production from all the major shale gas fields in China. Between 2012 and 2022, a total of 2740 shale gas wells were hydraulically fractured in China, primarily located in Sichuan and Chongqing Province. About 113 million m3 water was used for hydraulic fracturing, resulting in a cumulative shale gas production of 116 billion m3. As of 2022, the annual water use for hydraulic fracturing exceeded 20 million m3, and the annual FP water production reached 8.56 million m3. Notably, 80 % ~ 90 % of the FP water has been reused for hydraulic fracturing since 2020, accounting for 29 % to 35 % of the annual water usage for hydraulic fracturing. Water use per well in China varies primarily between 21,730 m3 to 61,070 m3 per well, and water use per horizontal length ranges primarily between 20 m3/m and 35 m3/m. The average ultimate FP water production per well in China was estimated to be 22,460 m3. The water use intensity (WUI) for shale gas extraction in China mainly ranges from 7 to 25.4 L/GJ, which is significantly higher than that of the U.S. This disparity is largely due to the lower Estimated Ultimate Recovery (EUR) of shale gas wells in China. Despite the considerable water consumption during the hydraulic fracturing process, shale gas has a relatively low water footprint compared to other conventional energy resources in China. The Produced water intensity (PWI) for shale gas extraction in China ranges from 3.9 to 7.3 L/GJ, which is consistent with the previously reported PWI values for shale gas extraction in the U.S. This study predicts water usage and FP production spanning the period 2023 to 2050 under two scenarios to assess the potential impact of shale gas extraction on water resources in the Longmaxi shale region in Sichuan Basin. The first scenario assumed a constant drilling rate, while the second assumed a yearly 10 % increase in drilling rate. With an assumed FP water reuse rate of 85 % for hydraulic fracturing, the estimated annual freshwater consumption for the two scenarios is 10.4 million m3 and 163 million m3, respectively. This accounts for only 0.28‱ and 4.4‱ of the total annual surface water resources in Sichuan and Chongqing Province. Our findings suggest that freshwater usage for hydraulic fracturing in humid Southern China is small relative to available surface water resources. However, prospective large-scale shale gas extraction in other arid and semi-arid regions may enhance the regional water scarcity. It is necessary to develop new hydraulic fracturing technologies that can use saline groundwater or other types of marginal water, and explore alternative management and treatment strategies for FP water.

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Published In

The Science of the total environment

DOI

EISSN

1879-1026

ISSN

0048-9697

Publication Date

January 2024

Volume

907

Start / End Page

168135

Related Subject Headings

  • Environmental Sciences
 

Citation

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Gao, J., Zou, C., Zhang, X., Guo, W., Yu, R., Ni, Y., … Vengosh, A. (2024). The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction in China. The Science of the Total Environment, 907, 168135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.168135
Gao, Jinliang, Caineng Zou, Xiaowei Zhang, Wei Guo, Rongze Yu, Yunyan Ni, Dan Liu, et al. “The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction in China.The Science of the Total Environment 907 (January 2024): 168135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.168135.
Gao J, Zou C, Zhang X, Guo W, Yu R, Ni Y, et al. The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction in China. The Science of the total environment. 2024 Jan;907:168135.
Gao, Jinliang, et al. “The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction in China.The Science of the Total Environment, vol. 907, Jan. 2024, p. 168135. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.168135.
Gao J, Zou C, Zhang X, Guo W, Yu R, Ni Y, Liu D, Kang L, Liu Y, Kondash A, Vengosh A. The water footprint of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction in China. The Science of the total environment. 2024 Jan;907:168135.
Journal cover image

Published In

The Science of the total environment

DOI

EISSN

1879-1026

ISSN

0048-9697

Publication Date

January 2024

Volume

907

Start / End Page

168135

Related Subject Headings

  • Environmental Sciences