Water supply constraints and the large-scale use of heavy equipment in rural and remote locations are among the most pressing challenges the fracturing industry has to solve in order to maintain or win its licence to operate.
The availability of water should bode well for the industry in some nascent European shale gas exploration regions, but the problems of souring and effectively using such resources in many other areas could hold back the industry elsewhere, according to an executive at National Oilwell Varco (NOV).
Hege Kverneland, chief technology officer at the US drilling services giant, conceded that there are many unsavoury aspects to shale gas drilling, even in such a mature region as the US.
“One drilling rig, for example, is around 20 truckloads of equipment. In addition, we have to come in with all the fracking equipment, the pumping units, sand, chemicals, things like that.” Kverneland said at the ONS conference in Stavanger on Monday.
“If I had a house in the countryside and I suddenly have 11,000 truckloads passing by my house and I didn’t have that before, I would be relatively upset too. And that is a challenge that we as an industry need to solve.”
“But the worst part is that in many areas we have to get water into many of these areas – water is probably the biggest challenge that we have in the shale industry.
“It is not sustainable to use so much water ... We need to be able to clean the water to be able to re-use it.”
Kverneland said the relative availability of water in places like the UK and Norway should bode well for the emerging shale market there, but places like Saudi Arabia – which has large shale gas reserves – will prove more problematic. “Can we use salt water, for example?” she asked.
There is, however, much the oil & gas industry can do to reduce its footprint in shale gas drilling, Kverneland said.
“I think that we can do a lot in making it more efficient; we can do it smarter; we can remotely control a lot of what we are currently sitting on the rigs controlling.”