In the energy industry, there have been concerns voiced about natural gas fracking. This method of collecting natural gas has received more than its share of media attention and in many cases, the public has been lead to believe that it is a bad thing that will pollute the ground water and that the process is wasteful in terms of water consumption.
However, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recently discovered that natural gas fracking can actually end up saving water. Time Magazine recently published a piece that goes into detail on what these researchers uncovered.
The researchers analyzed data from 423 power plants in the state of Texas. They gauged that the water used by the coal fired plants could have been reduced by 25 to 50 times if the plants had been powered by natural gas – even if it was collected using fracking. This is significant and puts to rest the worries that too much water is used in the fracking process.
The study also pointed out that if the state’s power plants had used natural gas instead of coal in 2011, the state would have saved 32 billion gallons of water.
“The bottom line is that hydraulic fracturing, by boosting natural gas production and moving the state from water-intensive coal technologies, makes our electric power system more drought resilient,” said Bridget Scanlon, senior research scientist at the University of Texas’s Bureau of Economic Geology and the lead author on the study.
Considering how many states, including Texas, have been facing water shortages due to long-lasting draughts, this information bears more attention. The potential to save billions of gallons of water on an annual basis cannot be overlooked. Too many areas in the United States are looking at severe water shortages and this means that coal-fired power plants may be shut down if they do not have enough water to run.
This points to a greater concern – how to save water while still using the more water-efficient fracking method? Some researchers suggest developing new ways to recycle the water that is used in the fracking process or coming up with new methods to extract natural gas that are more environmentally friendly and sustainable.
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