Multilayer Geospatial Analysis of Water Availability for Shale Resources Development in Mexico

C. Galdeano, M.A. Cook, and M.E. Webber, August 2017 (Citation)

Mexico’s government enacted an energy reform in 2013 that aims to foster competitiveness and private investment throughout the energy sector value chain. As part of this reform, it is expected that extraction of oil and gas via hydraulic fracturing will increase in five shale basins (e.g. Burgos, Sabinas, Tampico, Tuxpan, and Veracruz). Because hydraulic fracturing is a water-intensive activity, it is relevant to assess the potential water availability for this activity in Mexico.

This research aims to quantify the water availability for hydraulic fracturing in Mexico and identify its spatial distribution along the five shale basins. The methodology consisted of a multilayer geospatial analysis that overlays the water availability in the watersheds and aquifers with the different types of shale resources areas (e.g. oil and associated gas, wet gas and
condensate, and dry gas) in the five shale basins. The aquifers and watersheds in Mexico are classified in four zones depending on average annual water availability. Three scenarios were examined based on different impact level on watersheds and aquifers from hydraulic fracturing. For the most conservative scenario analyzed, the results showed that the water available could be used to extract between 8.15 and 70.42 Quadrillion British thermal units (Quads) of energy in the typical 20–30 year lifetime of the hydraulic fracturing wells that could be supplied with the annual water availability overlaying the shale areas, with an average across estimates of around 18.05 Quads. However, geographic variation in water availability could represent a challenge for extracting the shale reserves. Most of the water available is located closer to the Gulf of Mexico, but the areas with the larger recoverable shale reserves coincide with less water availability in
Northern Mexico. New water management techniques (such as recycling and re-use), more efficient fracturing methods, shifts in usage patterns, or other water sources need to be identified to allocate water for hydraulic fracturing without affecting current users (e.g. municipal, irrigation, industrial, and environmental flows).

C. Galdeano, M.A. Cook, and M.E. Webber. “Multilayer Geospatial Analysis of Water Availability for Shale Resources Development in Mexico,” Environmental Research Letters, 12 (2017): 1-12.