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Unconventional hydrocarbon development and water resources

Opening Session

Presented by David Dzombak


The development of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology has made possible the economic extraction of natural gas and oil from shale and other low-permeability subsurface units bearing these materials. This has significantly affected global oil and natural gas markets; the U.S. is now the world's largest natural gas producer and a net exporter of natural gas, and for the first time in decades produces more oil than it imports. While development of unconventional hydrocarbons has yielded environmental benefits, especially in thermoelectric power generation where the new supplies of natural gas are displacing coal as the fuel source, it also poses some distinctive environmental challenges, especially with respect to demand for water for the hydraulic fracturing process, and management of the brines brought to the surface during the post-fracturing production phase. This talk will examine the water management challenge for unconventional hydrocarbon development, including what has been learned from practice and research, and evolving approaches for reducing water use and impacts.