As much as $9 billion will be needed over the next decade just to throw away dirty water in the world’s busiest shale field, according to Raymond James & Associates Inc. The scale of the challenge is mind-boggling: drillers typically pump 30 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water into an oil well to fracture the surrounding rocks. In return, as much as 10 barrels come rushing back out for every one barrel of crude, Raymond James analyst Marshall Adkins said in a note to clients on Monday.
Given that recycling efforts aren’t robust enough to handle the 17.5 million barrels of dirty water produced DAILY in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, oil companies have to do something else with all that salty slurry, Adkins said. After all, so-called produced water is 10 times saltier than seawater and can be tainted with heavy metals and radioactivity.
“Most investors are simply unaware of the fact that as crude production grows, produced ‘dirty’ water grows even faster,” he wrote. “As the Permian Basin shifts further into manufacturing mode, the water growth we project will create the need for nearly 1,000 additional salt water disposal wells by 2030.”