The Duvernay is a Thirst Trap
About 23 million cubic meters (m3) of water was used for fraccing in Alberta in 2017 (AER, 2018), and nearly 99% of that volume was non-saline.
Within the Duvernay fairway (figure 1), the Spirit River has been the most drilled zone by well count, followed by the Cardium and the Duvernay. Though it has fewer wells, the Duvernay far exceeds the Spirit River and Cardium in terms of total volume of water pumped (figure 2). In 2017, 8.6 million m3 was pumped into the Duvernay, nearly three times that of the combined pumped volume of the Cardium and Spirit River (geoLOGIC, 2019). Data for 2018 are incomplete, but Canadian Discovery estimates that the total Duvernay volume may be as high as 14 million m3.
The median volumes on a per well basis have consistently increased from 2015 to 2018 for every zone, with the Duvernay consistently reporting the largest volumes (figure 3). In 2018, the median volume for the Duvernay was 54,000 m3, double that of the Montney (27,000 m3). Although Kaybob has the highest volume of total water pumped every year, operators in the East Shale Basin have used larger volumes on a per well basis than operators at Kaybob since 2017 (figure 4).
The Duvernay uses more frac water on a per well basis than other zones in Alberta and water use continues to trend sharply upwards. Currently, the majority of this water is sourced from surface waters but as development and public concerns continue to grow, a move towards groundwater sources may be desirable.
Alberta Energy Regulator. 2018. Alberta Energy Industry Water Use Report – Hydraulic Fracturing. Accessed July 2019. https://www.aer.ca/protecting-what-matters/holding-industry-accountable/industry-performance/water-use-performance
geoLOGIC, 2019. Well Completions & Frac Database.