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NEWS: North Dakota’s water market for fracking

A water depot in Trenton, North Dakota. Photo by Ernest Scheyder.

A water depot in Trenton, North Dakota. Photo by Ernest Scheyder.

Reuters reports on the dystopic battle for “the multimillion-dollar market to supply water” to fracking operations in the Bakken shale gas fields of North Dakota.

The article notes, “At the heart of this battle is a scrappy government-backed cooperative (the Western Area Water Supply Project), conceived to ensure fresh water in an area where its drinkability is compromised. The co-op has decided to sell 20 percent of its water to frackers to help keep prices low (for use in homes) and pay back state loans. That has not gone down well with the Independent Water Providers, a loose confederation of ranchers, farmers and small businesses that for years has supplied fracking water.”

“Jeanie Oudin, an analyst with energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, predicts the competition could push down North Dakota fracking water prices at least 10 percent in the next few years, or roughly $170,000 per well. …Water accounts for 20 percent of the roughly $8.5 million it costs to drill a North Dakota oil well. …The co-op sells water to frackers at roughly 84 cents a barrel… Confederation members can chose at what price to sell their water; most sell at 50 cents to 75 cents per barrel.”

“(Fracking) is water-intensive and requires more than 2 million gallons of water per well… Energy companies get most of their water in the state by trucking it from depots to oil and natural gas wells. Some wells require more than 650 truckloads to frack. …Fracking water depots, which cost roughly $200,000 to build and can gross more than $700,000 per year, are typically small metal buildings on concrete slabs filled with pumps and small tanks connected to the Missouri River or local aquifers. They can have two to six hookups and fill water trucks with as much as 7,800 gallons of water per visit.”

“The government-backed co-op has nine water depots to hold the fresh water that is piped from the treatment plant in Williston, about 45 miles north of Watford. It plans to build four more depots throughout the Bakken and hugely expand its pipeline system to bring fresh water to more homes. Small lines from the new pipelines will connect directly to some oil wells. On the other side, Independent Water Providers member JMAC Resources will build more water depots in the region and a massive pipeline just south of the Missouri River to supply oil wells. Other members of the group have also applied for depot permits.”

To read the full article, go to ‘The fight for North Dakota’s fracking-water market’.