Let’s put 5.4B gallons of water used in ND oil drilling in perspective

5.4 billion gallons a year.

That much water can do one of the following:

  • Drill about 1,800 wells in a year that will produce around 85 million barrels of oil in their first 12 months of production, or
  • Provide one-seventh (14.2%) of the water needed for agricultural irrigation in North Dakota for one year, or
  • Provide 18 months of water needed in a Midwest city of 50,000 people, or
  • Provide 3 months of water needed for the 57 golf courses in Palm Springs California. Yes, 13.5 weeks.

Drilling 1,800 wells sounds like a reasonable use of 5.4B gallons of water.

The amount is how much water was used in drilling oil wells in North Dakota during 2012 according to the Dickinson Press’ article North Dakota oil field is thirsty: 5.4B gallons of water used in 2012.

Seems like a huge amount of water. More than I can drink in a lifetime.

Let’s put that in perspective.

Phrased differently, here’s the relative use in a year:

  • N.D. ag uses 7 times more water than oil drilling. And that is in a relatively wet year.
  • Palm Springs golf courses use almost 4 times more water in a year than the oil wells.

Here’s my math.

Used in drilling – 5.4B gallons in 2012 from the article above.

Used in Midwest town of 50,000 people – 3.65B gallons a year

Calculated from this comment in the article:

Typical daily water use of a Midwestern city with 50,000 people is 10 million gallons, Kurz said.

Multiply 10M a day by 365 days equals 3.65B gallons a year.

Used in North Dakota for irrigation – 37.9B gallons a year

From comment in the article that says:

For example, North Dakota used 37.9 billion gallons of water in 2011 for irrigation, a wet year when less irrigation was needed, Hove said.

Used to water Palm Springs golf courses – 20.8B gallons a year

I described this in my post here.

One golf course uses about 1M gallons a day. There are reportedly 57 golf courses in Palm Springs.

So multiply 1M gallons/day times 365 equals 365M gallons a year for one course. Multiply that by 57 courses equals 20.8B gallons a year.

Wells drilled in N.D. during ’12 – about 1,795.

For simplicity I will take the number of producing wells at the end of the year (8,004) less producing wells at start of year (6,209), which equals 1,795 and assume that is new wells.

Oil produced in first 12 months – 85 million barrels –  making the huge assumption each of those wells produces for 12 months and produces at the average rate for wells in the Bakken field. Modify my assumptions as you wish.

Take the guess of 1,795 new wells, multiply by average daily oil per Bakken well of 130 barrels per day (BOPD) equals 233,350 BOPD. Multiply that by 365 would be 85.17M barrels in the first 12 months of production.

Oil data for state from here and Bakken-only here. (NDIC web site not working when I posted; down site was mentioned by Million Dollar Way earlier today.)

I’ve shown my math so you can check the calculations and revise them anyway you wish.

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