Water is essential to both our communities and the future of energy development, making our commitment to water sourcing and water stewardship critical. We use water during two key operational stages — drilling and completions — and our water use varies according to the geology and the specific drilling and completion plans engineered for each well.

In 2020, we used approximately 61 million barrels of water, a water efficiency rate of 0.18 bbl/EUR boe.

2020 Freshwater Intensity and Freshwater Sources(1)

Brazos ValleyEagle Ford ShaleHaynesville ShaleMarcellus ShalePowder River Basin
Freshwater consumed (bbl)15,065,339
15,048,9367,401,73019,754,2871,570,177
Freshwater Intensity Rate
(bbl/EUR boe)
1.680.610.140.080.23
Freshwater Sources (%)River15%95%95%
Pond/Creek81%
Private Water Well85%100%4%3%5%
Municipal15%2%

(1) In accordance with the U.S. Geological Survey, freshwater is defined as water that has less than or equal to 1,000 mg/l total dissolved solids.

Chesapeake works to responsibly manage our water, both in sourcing and usage. Whenever possible, we use non-potable water sources for our drilling and completions needs, sourcing from private landowners, municipalities, regional water districts and river authorities. We work closely with federal, state and local agencies to evaluate and permit our freshwater usage. 

Monitoring for Water Scarcity

Some of our operating areas, such as the Eagle Ford Shale and Powder River Basin, periodically experience varying levels of drought or water scarcity. We monitor drought level indications as published and updated quarterly by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and through the World Resources Institute’s Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas.

In 2020, 2% of our total freshwater used was sourced within a region classified as high or extremely high water-stress area.

Pipelines and Water Recycling

Whenever possible, we use pipelines to transport produced water. Using water pipelines:

  • Reduces operational costs and complexities
  • Minimizes truck traffic, and the associated road wear, on local roads
  • Eliminates tailpipe emissions

Utilizing water pipelines also encourages water reuse by allowing the transfer of produced water between sites. While produced water may be considered waste from one operational activity, it can be used as a freshwater alternative at a different site performing a different function. 

Chesapeake was one of the first of our peers to have a dedicated water recycling program, and we continue to improve our recycling efforts. We nearly doubled the amount of water recycled from 2019 to 2020 and are committed to 100% produced water recycling or reuse in the Marcellus Shale. Additionally, we sometimes take produced water from other operators in the Marcellus and recycle it for our own operations. 

In 2020, we transferred 6.68 million barrels of produced water through pipelines, removing the need for 56,597 truckloads to drive on local roads. This is the equivalent of nearly 850,000 vehicle miles.

In 2020, Chesapeake recycled nearly 120 million gallons of produced water.

Sharing Key Learnings

We’re a founding member and active participant in the Energy Water Initiative (EWI) — and several regional water committees — to further improve our water stewardship efforts. Through EWI, we collaborate with our peers to share key learnings, innovations and best practices to improve lifecycle water use and management. 

Chesapeake also jointly hosts conference calls twice a year with the Environmental Defense Fund. These calls are attended by representatives from academia, state and federal governments, NGOs and our industry to discuss and promote emerging topics, issues and studies related to the management and reuse of produced water. 

Protecting Water Resources

Protecting ground and surface water is integrated into our daily operations. Our site assessment program creates consistent procedures to protect water and other environmental receptors when constructing new locations or conducting maintenance at existing locations. 

Once we select a location to build a production facility, we take additional steps to protect ground and surface water during our operations. For example, during drilling we install three to five layers of steel well casing and cement that reinforce the integrity of our wells. 

Water Management Best Practices

Water Acquisition
  • Seek to use non-potable water first
  • Permit withdrawls from freshwater sources
  • Certify the environmental and safety performance of all suppliers before work
  • Comply with local, state and federal regulations
Well Planning and Construction
  • Conduct thorough site assessment, including wetlands and floodplain delineations
  • Perform baseline water quality assessment in all operating areas
  • Install 3–5 layers of steel well casing and cement for well integrity 
  • Incorporate secondary containment
  • Comply with local, state and federal regulations
Storage and Transportation
  • Store produced water in API-certified tanks made of either steel or fiberglass
  • Coat tanks and use sacrificial anodes to resist corrosion
  • Transport by pipeline when and where feasible
  • Comply with local, state and federal regulations
Recycle, Reduce or Dispose
  • Recycle produced water and evaluate freshwater use alternatives
  • Transfer produced water via pipelines, when possible
  • Participate in peer committees and academic research to increase knowledge and improve water stewardship efforts
  • Comply with local, state and federal regulations

Water Sampling

Chesapeake has developed a robust approach to groundwater protection throughout our operating areas, including pre- and/or post-drill water quality sampling as appropriate. We comply with state regulations and lease obligations that require sampling, and we conduct risk-based sampling to further safeguard ground and surface water during operations.

Independent, third-party consultants collect landowner water samples near our production sites, which are then analyzed by a state or nationally accredited laboratory. We test water supplies for a predefined set of parameters, including general water quality indicators, biological parameters, metals, dissolved gases and petroleum constituents. Landowners receive an analytical data package that includes fact sheets, links to appropriate state environmental agency websites and the EPA Water Systems Council WellCare Hotline.

Of our five operating areas, we sample water sources at least six months prior to drilling activities in the Marcellus Shale and the Powder River Basin. In the Eagle Ford Shale, Brazos Valley and Haynesville Shale, we use a risk-based approach to inform pre-drill water sampling with risk analysis performed at least three months before beginning drilling operations. 

Post-drill water sampling is not required in most of our operating areas, except for the Powder River Basin, where we adhere to state regulations requiring subsequent water testing 12 to 24 months after setting production casing, with follow-up samples taken again 36 to 48 months after the original test. Post-drill sampling also occurs based on lease requirements or risk-based need in all our operating areas.

Once results are analyzed and shared with the landowner and regulatory bodies, where required, we store the results in an electronic data management system. This extensive water quality database, coupled with our operational knowledge, aids our decision-making on where and when to sample in the future. 

In total, we’ve acquired more than 42,000 water samples to increase our understanding of the water quality in the areas where we operate.

Seismicity

Seismicity, and its correlation in certain locations to injection wells and completion activities, is the topic of several ongoing scientific studies. Chesapeake supports science-based research on this subject, including research conducted at Stanford University’s Center for Induced and Triggered Seismicity to study the potential processes that may induce seismicity and to develop a framework for risk assessment and management.

To further support research on this issue, Chesapeake has shared the company’s operational seismic data with Stanford and the Oklahoma Geologic Survey. The Oklahoma Geological Survey has used this data to depict faulting more accurately in the geological substrate, and to build maps to better educate industry about potential induced seismicity concerns.

We follow applicable federal laws when utilizing injection wells, as well as state regulations specific to each of our operating areas. We also have robust internal standards for well-siting and the safe injection and disposal of produced water.

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