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Published July 07 2012

Ask Your Government: Reader inquires about amount of fracking wastewater in ND

Dear Teri,

Do you know how many bbls/day of fracking wastewater there are here in North Dakota?

Donald Barcome Jr.

Grand Forks

Thanks for writing! I contacted Alison Ritter at the Department of Mineral Resources. Here’s what she said:

“Breaking down the gallons of fracturing treatment wastewater used per day in North Dakota is a difficult number to pinpoint for a number of reasons. First, the actual number of crews working in the state on a given day changes. Some may be moving to a new location, setting up, etc.

“Second, when those crews are actually working, they may be using different methods of fracturing. One could be using the ball and sliding sleeve method, while the other could be using a plug and perforate method, while another may use a combination of the two.

“The ball and sliding sleeve method uses a large portion of its designed volume in a day or two, while a plug and perforate method’s designed volume can be spread over a week or more, and the combination method likely an intermediate time frame.

“All of the methods would use different amounts of water and different amounts of stages. Oil and gas operators will use the fracturing method that is best fit for the area and the geology. That being said, it’s also difficult to define wastewater. Not all water that comes back from a fracturing treatment is considered waste.

“Some of it gets recycled. Some of it gets reused on other fracturing treatments, or used for other functions, while some of it does get disposed of in saltwater disposal wells. In addition, the fluid recovered after a fracturing treatment is almost always a blend of the fracturing fluid and naturally occurring brines from the producing formation.

“Years may pass before a majority of the fracturing water is recovered. What does get sent to saltwater disposal wells may not get sent to the same well. It could go to multiple saltwater disposal well locations. If your reader is looking to track how much water is being used for fracturing, the easiest way to break it down is each well uses around 2 million to 4 million gallons of water per fracturing treatments.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

Email politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.


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Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications