Texas Tech University

More Precious Than Oil

Shale Oil & Gas Business Magazine

September 29, 2015

Shale Oil & Gas Business Magazine - In the early 1990s, Texas Monthly published an article titled “More Precious Than Oil,” which discussed the proposition that, despite the undeniable value of the abundant supplies of oil and natural gas in the Permian Basin, there was an equally undeniable realization that there was a limited supply of usable water for people and businesses in that area.

Last September, Texas Tech University hosted a national conference on hydraulic fracturing, at which Texas Tech Engineering Professors Venkatesh Uddameri and Danny Reible presented a paper on water availability in the Permian Basin. In it, the authors reminded us that the Permian Basin is the "richest hydrocarbon basin in the United States with 14 identified oil- and gas-bearing geologic plays. It is estimated to contain 106 billion barrels of oil or roughly one-fourth of all the oil discovered in the United States." The Permian Basin in Texas covers a vast area of 50,000 square miles. Most of this area receives an average of only 15–18 inches of annual rainfall, and much of that comes in brief, intense bursts, which means that most of the potential benefit is lost to runoff and evaporation. Groundwater is the primary source of all water usage in the area.

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