Monster Wells

Despite Drought, Hundreds of Fracking Sites Used More Than 10 Million Gallons of Water

November 18, 2014

Monster Wells: Six Companies Drilled Monster Wells (Table-2)

Table 2. Companies drilling the most monster wells, Jan. 2011 – May 2013

Company Wells Gallons Average

Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.

35 545.6 million 15.6 million

EOG Resources, Inc.

39 476.9 million 12.2 million

Newfield Exploration

26 342.3 million 13.2 million

EQT Production

20 231.7 million 11.6 million

Devon Energy Production Co.

16 182.8 million 11.4 million

Murphy Exploration & Production USA

16 177.8 million 11.1 million

Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of data from FracFocus.org

The company that used the most water to frack its monster wells during the period analyzed was a Canadian firm, Encana Corp. of Calgary, Alberta. Its U.S. subsidiary, Encanca Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., fracked 35 monster wells in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan and Mississippi. The largest user of water was a gas well in Garfield County, Colo., that used more than 24 million gallons. 

On its website, Encana is transparent about its water use, although it expresses the volume in less familiar units that appear to minimize the numbers. Encana says it “may use anywhere between 200 and 120,000 cubic metres” of water to frack a well. That is about 52,000 to 31.7 million gallons – a top figure considerably higher than the thirstiest well the company reported to FracFocus during the period analyzed.20

The company that fracked the most monster wells was EOG Resources, Inc., based in Houston. It fracked 39 of them, all in Texas except one in Louisiana. The largest water user was an oil well in Irion County, Texas, that used more than 17 million gallons.

EOG’s website does not say how much water it uses for fracking. Instead, it resorts to the common industry practice of comparing fracking water use to other uses:

Hydraulic fracturing accounts for only about 0.5 percent of all the water used across Texas. . . Irrigation is the biggest user of water in Texas, accounting for 61 percent. Municipal use follows with 27 percent, then manufacturing at 6 percent, steam electric power at 3 percent and livestock at 2 percent. . . . Lawns [in Texas] consume roughly 18 times more water than fracking does.21

EOG also touts its low rate of water intensity, the amount needed to produce a unit of energy: “EOG’s water intensity rate for 2013 (that is, the water used by EOG in completing its U.S. wells in 2013 relative to the potential [energy] value of the oil and gas reserves associated with such wells) was 1.83 gallon per MMBtu [1 million British Thermal Units].” According to EOG, that is less water than is needed to produce the same amount of energy from coal, nuclear power, synthetic fuels, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel.22

The other companies with the most monster wells were even less forthcoming on their websites:

  • Newfield Exploration Co. says only: “Our environmental stewardship relates to Newfield’s impacts on living and non-living natural systems, including ecosystems, land, air and water.”23
  • EQT Production says that in 2012 it used a total of about 2.3 million cubic meters (605 million gallons) of fresh water for fracking, and that almost a third of the total was recycled and reused. But there is no discussion of the amount used per well.24
  • Devon Energy touts its water reuse program in Oklahoma, which it says has saved 80 million gallons of water since 2013, but it provides no information about how much water it uses.25
  • Murphy Exploration says only that it is committed to “reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiencies, protecting water resources, and managing waste and land impact.”26