How is water used in the energy industry?

Answering Aunt Edna

Get ready for this scenario — you and Aunt Edna are doing dishes after Thanksgiving dinner and she starts talking about people and companies wasting water. She asks you how Chevron uses water in its own operations. Here is some information to help you answer her.

How is water used in the oil and natural gas industry?

  • Water plays a critical role in the development and refinement of oil and natural gas – energy resources that power our world.
  • And in hydraulic fracturing, we inject a mixture of fluids under high pressure to create hairline cracks in deep shale formations to release previously inaccessible oil and natural gas. Ninety percent of the fluid is water.

So, hydraulic fracturing – how much water are we talking about here?

  • On average, the industry uses between 100,000 gallons to 5 million gallons of water to frack a well, depending on the rock formation. This is generally a one-time water use that can produce decades of energy. To put this water use in context, a typical golf course requires 100,000 to 1 million gallons of water per week in the summer to maintain its turf.
  • The water used to produce and refine oil and natural gas resources is an investment in the energy that makes our daily lives possible.

Does Chevron do anything to reduce water use?

  • Chevron recognizes the value of water as a fundamental social, environmental and economic resource and, wherever possible and practical, water is conserved or reused.
  • We often reuse water to limit its use in the refining process. For example, our refinery in Richmond, California, partnered with the local utility district to construct a recycled water facility. Approximately one-third of the water used by the Richmond Refinery is recycled.
  • In hydraulic fracturing, low quality water like brackish (or salty) water may be used to conserve freshwater resources. More than 99 percent of the water Chevron uses for well completions in the Permian Basin is from brackish or recycled water sources.
  • In Appalachia, Chevron has established partnerships with local operators to create water-sharing agreements. These agreements facilitate the reuse of produced water by other operators for drilling activities, maximizing water recycling and limiting disposal to injection wells. Since March 2017, Chevron Appalachia has shared approximately 35 million gallons of water.

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Source: Chevron’s 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report Highlights. See the 2016 CR Report for more information on how Chevron manages water resources.


Learn more about how water enables the energy industry in this video.

Action Item

If asked about the role of water in energy development, show Aunt Edna the video above. Consider sharing it on social media.

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‘Answering Aunt Edna’ is a recurring series that is designed to help CAN members answer tough questions from their friends, family and neighbors.

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