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2020 | Book

Regulating Water Security in Unconventional Oil and Gas

Editors: Regina M. Buono, Prof. Dr. Elena López Gunn, Prof. Jennifer McKay, Dr. Chad Staddon

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series : Water Security in a New World


About this book

This book addresses the need for deeper understanding of regulatory and policy regimes around the world in relation to the use of water for the production of ‘unconventional’ hydrocarbons, including shale gas, coal bed methane and tight oil, through hydraulic fracturing. Legal, policy, political and regulatory issues surrounding the use of water for hydraulic fracturing are present at every stage of operations. Operators and regulators must understand the legal, political and hydrological contexts of their surroundings, procure water for use in the fracturing and extraction processes, gain community cooperation or confront social resistance around water, collect flow back and produced water, and dispose of these wastewaters safely. By analysing and comparing different approaches to these issues from around the globe, this volume gleans insights into how policy, best practices and regulation may be developed to advance the interests of all stakeholders. While it is not always possible to easily transfer ‘good practice’ from one place to another, there is value in examining and understanding the components of different legal and regulatory regimes, as these may assist in the development of better regulatory law and policy for the rapidly growing unconventional energy sector.

The book takes an interdisciplinary approach and includes chapters looking at water-energy nexus security in general, along with issue-focused and geographically-focused case studies written by scholars from around the world.

Chapter topics, organized in conjunction with the stage of the shale gas production process upon which they touch, include the implications of hydraulic fracturing for agriculture, municipalities, and other stakeholders competing for water supplies; public opinion regarding use of water for hydraulic fracturing; potential conflicts between hydraulic fracturing and water as a human right; prevention of induced seismic activity, and the disposal or recycling of produced water. Several chapters also discuss implications of unconventional energy production for indigenous communities, particularly as regards sustainable water management.

This volume will be of interest to scholars and students of energy and water, regulators and policymakers and operators interested in ensuring that they align with emergent best global practice.

Table of Contents


Framework and Context

Chapter 1. Regulating Water Security in Unconventional Oil and Gas: An Introduction
The last 20 years have seen dramatic growth in the production of oil and gas from shale, as production techniques developed in the latter half of the twentieth century have advanced under largely favorable economic conditions. Hydraulic fracturing is a well stimulation technique in which sand and other proppants suspended in fluids are forced at high pressure through cracks in shale rock to free hydrocarbons to flow to the surface. This requires significant volumes of water and presents challenges for protecting nearby humans and the environment from water, air, and noise pollution, as well as other effects of the activity. Legal, policy, and regulatory issues related to the use of water for hydraulic fracturing are present at every stage of such “unconventional” operations. Operators must understand the legal, political and hydrological context of their surroundings, gain community cooperation or confront social resistance, procure water for use in the fracturing and extraction processes, collect flowback and produced water, and dispose of these waters safely. A recent study found significant increases in water use for hydraulic fracturing and wastewater production in major shale gas and oil production regions, with attendant increases in water-use intensity over time (i.e., water use normalized to the energy production) (Kondash et al. 2018). The water volumes required for hydraulic fracturing are only likely to grow over time, as will the challenges of meeting that demand, and of disposing of wastewater associated with that production. This book considers how regulators and other decision makers have addressed many of these issues, considering varying legal frameworks, political systems, social acceptance, and geologies around the world (Fig. 1.1).
Regina M. Buono, Elena López Gunn, Chad Staddon, Jennifer McKay
Chapter 2. Water-Energy Nexus: The Role of Hydraulic Fracturing
This chapter considers some challenges attendant on optimising water-energy trade-offs in hydraulic fracturing, focusing on the interplays between constantly evolving technologies (e.g. use of treated effluent, brackish water or even waterless methods) and regulatory systems, using the Eagle Ford shale play in Texas as a case study. Regulators and higher level policy-makers often have conflicting preferences associated with the specific trade-offs (environmental, economic and social) that come within their purview. Therefore, it is very important to understand the basic trade-offs of the water-energy nexus when addressing nexus issues such as energy resources mining and production, water production, treatment and allocation, power plant construction and environmental impacts.
Ahmed M. Mroue, Gabrielle Obkirchner, Jennifer Dargin, Jordan Muell
Chapter 3. The Human Right to Water and Unconventional Energy
Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas is an emotive subject, generating passionate arguments both pro and con. Some scholars argue that a ‘human right to water’ (HRW) approach could usefully enshrine in law the priority of human needs over industrial uses, in hydraulic fracturing and other sectors. This chapter explores the existing status of the HRW in international law and in the constitutions and statutes of some nations around the world. It appears that attempts to link struggles over HF’s impact on water resources with the HRW have so far foundered on a lack of clear unambiguous HRW declarations that can be tried in courts of law.
Robert Palmer, Damien Short, Ted Auch
Chapter 4. Global Conflicts Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing and Water
In a little more than a decade, hydraulic fracturing has unlocked significant worldwide reserves of hydrocarbons, increased the stability of energy supplies, and generated billions in economic returns, but has also delivered one other aspect: widespread controversy over the process and its potential consequences. For industry, hydraulic fracturing represents an unprecedented technological evolution that has forever changed energy production. But for many, it underscores a growing concern over the impacts of oil and gas production on water, and public opposition is often closely linked to water risks. This opposition is now global in its influence, which cannot be ignored by policymakers or industry. This chapter analyzes the primary areas of conflict and public concern over hydraulic fracturing, as well as regulations and mechanisms for resolution. Among the topics discussed are trends towards the complete ban of hydraulic fracturing. Bans, while often overturned, illustrate the intensity of the conflict and the risks of failing to understand the driving elements of these efforts and potential resolutions. This chapter also considers issues related to use of water in arid environments, mandatory disclosure of water volumes and chemical components, baseline testing of local water supplies, induced seismicity, contamination risks related to hydraulic fracturing and disposal of waste materials, noise pollution and residential proximity to operations, and methods of resolving or minimizing conflict and opposition. Controversies are examined in Texas, Colorado, New York, the United Kingdom, and Spain. Addressing the sources of social resistance and resolving them through meaningful and transparent policy mechanisms are critical elements of continued worldwide production. The reputation of the process is critical given the scope of production, social media, and the consequences for cities, industry, and citizens living in and around production zones.
James D. Bradbury, Courtney Cox Smith

Acquiring Water for Fracturing: Conflicts and Regulatory Issues

Chapter 5. Frac Water Acquisition in the Major U.S. Unconventional Oil and Gas Plays
This analysis fills a vital gap in the existing literature by examining in detail methods and pathways by which unconventional oil & gas producers in the U.S. commonly source the water used in hydraulic fracturing completions. The authors leverage large data sets, their practical professional and research experiences, and conversations with well-placed industry sources to describe the prevalent business models and contractual structures under which oil and gas producers obtain frac water. Geographically, the study focuses on five world-scale unconventional oil and gas basins: the Bakken play in North Dakota, the Niobrara in Colorado, the Eagle Ford in south Texas, the Marcellus in Appalachia, and the Permian Basin in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico.
Gabriel Collins, Julie A. Rosen
Chapter 6. Access to Water for Hydraulic Fracturing in China
China is very ambitious in developing shale gas. To develop this unconventional natural gas resource requires hydraulic fracturing, which is a process to stimulate well production. Hydraulic fracturing operations use massive volumes of water, while most shale gas reserves in China are located where there are water shortage issues due to either seasonal drought or high demand for local domestic water. This Chapter discusses how shale gas developers may acquire water for hydraulic fracturing and some regulatory matters relevant to this water-energy nexus. Under the state ownership rule, shale gas developers may only have water use rights. Developers may acquire water by abstracting with a license or buying from water suppliers. The national water exchange can be another option to obtain water rights from other water abstraction license holders, although no such transaction has been made yet. Government may curtail water access for fracking and the public may challenge through different ways, but no such case is available. It is expected that a more robust regulatory practice is ahead along with the development of industry as well as the growth of water-energy tension.
Libin Zhang, Sheng Shao, Fang Dong, Jiameng Zheng
Chapter 7. The Assessment and Acquisition of Water Resources for Shale Gas Development in the UK
Shale gas is conjectured to potentially improve the UK’s security of natural gas supply’s status by substituting up to half of natural imports by 2035. This paper explores the subsequent demands upon freshwater resources, the process of resource acquisition by operators and the prerequisite procedural of assessment. This is followed by a water management case study of Cuadrilla Resources, the leading shale gas operator in the UK before concluding comments.
Jenna Brown
Chapter 8. “94% of the Water Flows into the Sea”: Environmental Discourse and the Access to Water for Unconventional Oil and Gas Activities in Neuquén, Argentina
The province of Neuquén in Argentina has public domain over one of the largest unconventional oil and gas reservoirs in the world. In 2012, with the promulgation of the Decree 1483/12, the provincial government made the first law for the exploration and exploitation of unconventional oil and gas in the country. In order to “prevent, mitigate and minimize environmental impacts” of hydraulic fracturing the Decree prohibits the use of underground waters for the exploration and exploitation of unconventional oil and gas. However, it provides for the use of surface water for these activities and argues that 94% of the volume of the main rivers in the region flows into the sea without being used. Through a political ecology perspective and using critical discourse analysis, the chapter intends to make sense of how the state shapes socio-natural relations and seeks to manufacture consent for hydraulic fracturing. The analysis shows that government and industry actors develop an environmental discourse centered on two main arguments: the need to exploit natural resources in order to reinforce development and the possibility of exploiting natural resources with environmental protection. This discourse thus aims to legitimize the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbons. In particular, government and industry attempt to secure access to water for unconventional oil and gas activities by unfolding a sense of excess availability of surface water, which tend to ignore alternative ideas and usages of water.
Joaquín Bernáldez, Rocío Juliana Herrera
Chapter 9. Tight Oil and Water: Climate Change and the Extractive Waterscape of Western Siberia
With conventional oil production declining in the Western Siberian Basin, Russia is incentivising the development of ‘tight oil’ reserves using hydraulic fracturing technologies. This chapter reviews the existing literature on two under-explored aspects of the unconventional hydrocarbons debate. First, that much of the research on the environmental and social implications of hydraulic fracturing for ‘unconventional oil and gas’ has focused substantively on shale gas. In particular, perspectives on the specific nature of tight oil and its extraction are notably scarce. Second, I argue that the increasingly apparent risks posed by the hydrological implications of climate change, extreme weather and the expansion of tight oil are worthy of much greater empirical attention.
The examples given in this chapter call attention to the specific materiality of tight oil and water, and the way in which water, nature and people mediate each other in an ‘extractive waterscape.’ Thus, the geophysical nature of tight oil is manifest in the intensity of production, and comes into conflict with the increasing intensity of hydrological dynamics. While this poses significant socio-ecological threats to indigenous livelihoods in Western Siberia, it is argued that water can play a key role in resistance. By placing the role of water in mediating cultural relationships with the land, at the centre of these struggles, indigenous space may be reclaimed. I conclude by highlighting three main areas for future research on the subject of tight oil extraction and water resources in the fields of the environmental sciences, physical and human geography.
Owen King
Chapter 10. The Political Ecology of Shale Gas Exploitation in Ukraine
The chapter explores the main problems associated with the use of hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas in Ukraine. Special attention is paid to water issues. A detailed SWOT-analysis of the problem was carried out. Territorial distribution of water resources is uneven and unfortunately does not match the regions of greatest energy or mineral abundance. The smallest amount of water is found in places of concentration of powerful industrial consumers – the Donbass, Kryvorizhzhya, and the southern region of Ukraine. Areas of potential shale gas coincide with the areas of the smallest available water resources and areas with the greatest density of population. Experience elsewhere and the now well-known specifics of the hydraulic fracturing process allows us to identify potential threats to the environmental security of the country: pollution of clean groundwater and surface waters of Ukraine; utilization of large quantities of fresh water in the Yuzhivska and Oleska basins, especially in densely populated regions; degradation of large natural areas; emissions of greenhouse gases exacerbating climate change; the occurrence of seismic phenomena; and the degradation of natural landscapes.
Olena Mitryasova, Volodymyr Pohrebennyk, Chad Staddon

What Comes Next? Disposing of Water from Hydraulic Fracturing

Chapter 11. Disposal of Water for Hydraulic Fracturing: Case Study on the U.S.
In 2012, the U.S. oil and gas industry produced approximately 3.4 × 109 cubic meters (m3) of water, equivalent to 9.1 × 106 m3 per day and greater than six times the amount of water treated by the City of Houston, Texas. This “produced water” consists of drilling or completion fluids that exit a well shortly after it is brought into production, along with water occurring naturally in the rock formation that exits with the oil and/or gas. Produced water can be contaminated by hydrocarbons, metals, radioactive material, and salts, which can make recycling and disposal difficult. In this chapter, we will discuss two aspects of produced water handling—regulation and technology—specifically focusing on five U.S. regions—the Permian, Eagle Ford, Bakken, Marcellus, and Niobrara. We will explore various disposal practices used in each region and consider how the regulatory framework influences those practices. The focus will be on regulations in six states – Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Wyoming – with jurisdiction over the above regions. Just as the regions have remarkably different geology, and therefore different quality of produced water, these six states also have different regulatory frameworks. To illustrate these differences, we undertake a detailed exploration of the regulations in Texas and Pennsylvania and compare other states’ regulations where appropriate. The analysis highlights the complexity of produced water regulation, treatment, and disposal within the United States.
Romany Webb, Katherine R. Zodrow
Chapter 12. Regulating the Disposal of Produced Waters from Unconventional Oil and Gas Activities in Australia
Production of unconventional petroleum resources in Australia comprises the exploration for and extraction of shale gas and coal seam gas (CSG, also known as coalbed methane). This chapter examines the issues associated with produced water from CSG and shale gas extraction, which differ greatly in both content and regulation. In examining the regulation of produced water from the extraction of CSG, only the Queensland jurisdiction will be assessed, since it is the only jurisdiction where production is occurring. Due to a moratorium on shale gas exploration and extraction in the Northern Territory, the regulation of produced water from shale gas exploration and production in Western Australia and South Australia is considered, with a particular focus on Western Australia given the advanced development of shale gas exploration in that state. This chapter provides an overview of unconventional petroleum resources (UPR) in Australia, and the regulation of UPR exploration and production in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia. It considers issues relating to produced water from both shale gas and CSG production and analyses the legal and environmental issues related to produced water in shale gas and CSG activities.
Tina Soliman Hunter, David Campin
Chapter 13. Unconventional Oil and Gas: Interactions with and Implications for Groundwater
The actual and potential impacts of the “shale revolution” on groundwater supplies are subject to intense scholarly debate in scientific, legal, and policy domains. Unconventional development of shale gas through the dynamic combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling will continue as a fundamental component of energy policy in the United States, particularly with regards to notions of energy independence and security. At a regional level, the water-related risks associated with hydraulic fracturing operations include impacts on water quality and quantity. This chapter examines the potential implications of hydraulic fracturing operations for groundwater drinking supplies through direct, indirect, and natural contamination pathways, including subsurface migration of methane, accidental surface spills, leak-off implicating fracturing fluids, well-casing integrity, and water table interactions with produced water. These effects are controversial because the best available scientific research is often contradictory, offering both support and opposition to establishing a causal relationship between contamination pathways and hydraulic fracturing. Regulatory uncertainty and challenges in establishing legal causation further contribute to the difficulties associated with detecting, monitoring, and assigning liability for groundwater contamination. This chapter examines the science behind the conduits that could impact drinking water supplies and analyzes regulatory regimes that monitor groundwater interactions with unconventional oil and gas development.
Brett A. Miller
Chapter 14. Overview of Oil and Gas Wastewater Injection Induced Seismicity in Hydrocarbon Regions in the United States, Canada, and Europe
There has been a tremendous increase in earthquake activity in traditionally non-seismically active areas, such as the American states, such as Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. In Europe, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands experienced seismicity events that were associated with oil and gas development. Studies ensued and are in process to determine the correlations between oil and gas activity and seismicity. Recently, many researchers have identified a correlation between seismic activity and certain oil and gas operations, such as wastewater fluid injection, which is a common practice used to dispose of wastewater generated during oil and gas operations. Oil and gas companies, state regulatory agencies, and local and state governments are proceeding surely, but cautiously, given that most of this activity is occurring in areas with a strong and economically vested interest in petroleum production. This chapter reviews the geologic mechanism, scientific studies, applicable U.S. federal environmental legislation, state and provincial overview of agency work, in addition to a brief review of anthropogenic seismic events in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
Monika U. Ehrman

Regulatory Regimes and Issues: Regional Perspectives

Chapter 15. Hydraulic Fracturing in Canada: Regulation by Moratorium or Specialized Agencies in Landscapes of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights
Over the past decade hydraulic fracturing activities have rapidly transformed the landscape in some regions of Canada, with both public and private sector drives to expand the oil and gas industry taking precedence over long term water stewardship. Within the Canadian federation, provincial governments have devolved responsibility for both water management and the regulation of unconventional oil and gas. Provinces tend to issue renewable short-term water licences for fracking activities under regulatory review processes that are separate from normal water licensing processes. This separation of regulatory function, the sheer volume of water use involved, and the scale of fracking has resulted in conflicts over water use and unregulated storage and use of water for the industry. In addition, Indigenous communities’ aboriginal and treaty rights to water-based activities, such as fishing, are threatened by the extent of fracking activity and lack of hydrological data. These same First Nations are advocating for region- and watershed-wide water strategies to create objectives for long-term land and water planning that address the impacts of fracking and establish collaborative management structures for decision-making.
Deborah Curran
Chapter 16. Hydraulic Fracturing in Latin America: Prospects and Possibilities?
During the last three decades, unconventional gas and oil development has substantially transformed the energy section. One of main developments is hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, a practice which has had substantial impact on people’s economic, social and political lives in those areas where unconventional energy reserves are present and are being exploited or could be exploited.
Latin America is one of the world regions with the highest potential for unconventional gas and oil development. Thus, the objective of this chapter is to look at unconventional oil and gas from a geopolitical perspective in the Latin American region, and in particular, the evolution of the industry and related energy policies in key countries of the Western hemisphere (namely Mexico, Argentina and Colombia) since the U.S. shale revolution of the early 21st century.
This chapter begins with a brief review of how hydraulic fracturing works and where in the world it is currently operational. The chapter then presents a review highlighting subsequent developments in the Americas over the last 10 years, giving special attention to Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, countries with large assessed reserves. The chapter thus shows the availability of oil and gas shale resources in Latin America, the developments that have been emerging to regulate the sector, and the enabling regimes/policies. The chapter concludes by considering the extent to which resolving environmental – and particularly water – issues related to hydraulic fracturing may be key for the economic growth for these Latin American countries (i.e. Mexico, Argentina and Colombia). These hurdles must be considered and addressed, in order to better shape the future of Latin American fracking in the coming years.
Andrés Felipe Sánchez Peña
Chapter 17. The Disposal of Water from Hydraulic Fracturing: A South African Perspective
Shale gas extraction poses significant risks to scarce groundwater resources in the semi-desert Central Karoo region of South Africa. Review of hastily-compiled Environmental Management Plans, prepared in support of exploration bids, has been scathing. A subsequent Strategic Environmental Assessment did little to assuage concerns about environmental harm or that a regime of regulatory governance, equal to the task, existed at all. In the face of the clear, evident and largely unpredictable challenges, the legal and regulatory tools and experience available for the development of shale gas extraction in South Africa are neophytic at best. There are no existing norms and standards that would transition comfortably into this environmentally-challenging arena. What is needed is a considerable body of further scientific investigation, possibly in parallel with closely controlled, open and transparent pilot-scale drilling and fracturing.
Loretta Feris, W. R. (Bill) Harding
Chapter 18. Hydraulic Fracturing, Shale Development and Water Issues in Poland
Poland is the largest and possibly most promising European country for future shale development. But attempts to recreate a “shale revolution” in Poland for now have failed due to geological, cost and regulatory factors. Even so, the potential for shale exploration is not necessarily lost since technology and the market can at some point deliver more hospitable conditions. Water is probably the single most important element of the environment that hydraulic fracturing utilizes and has the potential to deplete and/or contaminate, resulting in host of adverse impacts across the land and population. This paper is a first take on describing the intricacies that exist between water and potential shale development in Poland. It provides an overview of the legal environment on both shale exploration and water law, and describes and contrasts the geological and water-related features of the regions where shale exploration takes place. On the basis of this initial assessment, the paper provides recommendations with respect to developing water policy and potential shale development.
Anna B. Mikulska
Chapter 19. Legal Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing Activities in Brazil – The Objectives and Achievements to Date
The purpose of this work is to analyze the Brazilian regulations for exploration and production of shale gas through the use of hydraulic fracturing, as well as to discover whether such energy matrix is important for the country. It shall further review the country’s requirements for energy sources and provide an overview of the regulations applicable for oil and gas exploration and production activities in Brazil. This chapter outlines the shortcomings of the current applicable regulation for hydraulic fracturing in the country, providing information about the conflicts arising out of the regulatory gaps. Finally, it concludes that there is a long way to go before Brazil develops its shale gas industry and is able to prevent the many problems that may arise out of this controversial method.
Barbara Bittencourt, David Meiler

Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter 20. Regulating Water Security in Unconventional Oil and Gas: Common Challenges, Trade-Offs, and Best Practices from Around the Globe
This volume addresses the growing need to improve understanding of effective regulatory and policy regimes in relation to water used to operate unconventional hydrocarbon operations around the world. As the chapters in this book clearly show, legal, policy, regulatory, and political issues surrounding the use of water for hydraulic fracturing are present at every stage of operations. These include direct impacts related to the procurement of water for use in hydraulic fracturing, the collection of flowback and produced water, and the safe disposal via treatment, reuse or sale, or otherwise, of produced or other wastewaters. Also important are more indirect impacts including those related to air quality, induced seismicity and local community support. This book analyses and compares various approaches to these issues from around the globe to glean insights into common difficulties and best practices to develop and advance the interests of all stakeholders, including the natural environment and present and future generations. While it is not possible (or advisable) to simply transfer aspects of law and governing institutions from one place to another (the “cut and paste” approach), there is value in the comparative examination and understanding of legal regimes. International law may also have a role here in terms of helping to create a clear framework for water security in the context of regulating unconventional energy production that individual states can tailor to their local conditions.
Chad Staddon, Regina M. Buono, Elena López Gunn, Jennifer McKay
Regulating Water Security in Unconventional Oil and Gas
Regina M. Buono
Prof. Dr. Elena López Gunn
Prof. Jennifer McKay
Dr. Chad Staddon
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