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Exploration of West Texas Brackish Groundwater to Supply Fracking Fluids for the Bone Spring Play

Allan R. Standen
12401 Painted Bunting Dr., Austin, Texas 78726

The oil boom has returned to West Texas with exploration of the Bone Spring and the Wolfcamp oil/gas plays. Development of these non-conventional plays requires large volumes of water (millions of gallons per well) to hydro-fracture (frack) the organic-rich siltstones and shales. Potable water (1000 mg/l) has been used to frack these wells, tapping an already limited supply of useable groundwater. State-funded water-planning regions E, F, and O located in the Panhandle and West Texas are concerned about the magnitude of water production and are presently evaluating the impact of this increased water use on regional water resources. The use of brackish water (1000 to 10,000 mg/l) would be more acceptable by the public and may be economically beneficial.

Bone Spring Play exploration is presently focused in the vicinity of the Reeves, Ward, and Loving counties border area. A geographic information system (GIS) geodatabase of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and Texas Department of Regulations and Licensing (TDLR) was used for reconnaissance exploration to identify tracts of land with the potential to produce a sustainable supply of brackish water to meet local fracking needs (100 million gallons/month). Screening criteria used to identify potential land tracts included water quality (cations, anions, and metals), aquifer saturated thickness, well production rates, groundwater volumetrics, and water-truck transportation logistics. Three land tracts (>5000 acres) in the study area were identified. Aquifers considered included the Pecos Valley Alluvium, Dockum, Capitan Reef Complex, and Edwards-Trinity Plateau.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90158©2012 GCAGS and GC-SEPM 6nd Annual Convention, Austin, Texas, 21-24 October 2012