“Water is the new oil,” said Laura Capper, a Houston-based oilfield consultant. “The value of water has changed.”
The reason is fracking, a technique that helped kicked off the shale revolution a decade ago. It is the last major step to completing a well, and it is a massive consumer of water. Ranches that can sell excess supplies get a steady revenue stream, which is having an impact on rural real estate appraisals.
In the Permian, America’s busiest oil patch, a producer needs to blast as much as 60,000 barrels of water into a well every day, along with sand and chemicals, to complete the fracking that cracks open the tight, oil-bearing rock about a mile underground. The process takes about 10 days.
Demand for water to use in fracking in the Permian has more than doubled from 2016 levels, according to industry consultant Rystad Energy. Demand should grow to more than 2.5 billion barrels by next year, accounting for nearly half of all U.S. oilfield needs.