Water, Energy 'Inexorably Interlinked'

Water, Energy 'Inexorably Interlinked'

(This article is part 3 of a 3-part series on Fracking Water Treatment.)

Water and energy are inexorably interlinked, with increasing energy demands on water impacting the world's ability to meet its energy needs, said Deloitte consultants Dr. Joseph Stanislaw and William Sarni in a recent whitepaper "No water, no energy. No energy, no water".

In parallel, the need for more and more water in agricultural, industrial and domestic uses requires more energy.

"A constraint in either resource limits the other, and this nexus of supply and demand poses substantial risks for virtually every government and every type of business," said Stanislaw and Sarni.

"While many companies have strategies for human resources, marketing, risk management, etc., very few have energy strategies and water strategies, and even less have integrated energy-water strategies," Stanislaw and Sarni noted.

The competition for energy and fresh water is becoming increasingly acute, with the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimating world energy demand to grow by 53 percent between 2008 and 2035, and many countries extracting groundwater faster than it can be replenished.

This trend will likely continue as the global population is expected to grow by approximately one billion people between 2010 and 2025, with economic development in emerging markets anticipated to catapult 3 billion people into the middle class. By 2030, two out of every three people likely will live in an area of high water stress, and the substantial shortfall between water supply and demand could reach as high as 40 percent.

The effects of climate change also are exerting pressure on the fulcrum of the energy/water relationship.

"The popular consensus regarding freshwater is that when supplies dwindle, we can make or find more of it," said Stanislaw and Sarni. "The reality is that the amount of fresh and accessible water is static, and demands on this finite resource are increasing."

One of the biggest demands on U.S. water supply is the hydraulic fracturing business, said Stanislaw, noting that oil and gas companies are now having to take into account the cost of water into their business and economic models.

However, the increasing demand on water supply was an issue even before the recent shale boom.

"It's only now that people are beginning to focus on it, and realizing they have to make water a part of their social and business calculations," Stanislaw told Rigzone.

This cost is prompting companies to seek out ways to improve the efficiency of water usage through technology to manage water sourcing, enhance treatment processes and safety store and transport water.

Water is also heavily utilized in renewable and other energy resources. The utility sector is heavily water dependent, with most thermal power generation facilities needing significant amounts of water for cooling process, regarding of whether solar, uranium, coal or natural gas are used as the base fuels.

Additionally, water is required to clean and process coal, and the biofuels industry depends on vast amounts of water, Stanislaw and Sarni said.

Reducing water consumption in traditional energy production as well as moving to energy sources that are inherently less water-intensive will be key to managing water resources, Stanislaw and Sarni said.

Some renewable energy options, including wind power and solar photovoltaics (PVs), have smaller water footprints, which gives them an advantage that could trump cost per megawatt in areas experiencing water shortages, including the desert Southwest and New England, said Stanislaw.

"Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico are well suited for rooftop PV projects," said Stanislaw.

California homeowners can get tax deductions when they install up to 7 kilowatts of solar PV equipment on their rooftops.

"It's very easy and very beneficial in that large scale systems aren't needed," said Stanislaw.

The desert southwest has lots of space for large scale solar systems and the transmission infrastructure to move electricity to urban areas.

The northeastern United States is also experiencing a shortage of water due to a serious drought over the past few years, but lacks the transmission grid that is seen in the southwest. Potential does exist for wind power generation in the mountains in Maine, and a potential wind project offshore Maine could offer a solution.

While the Cape Wind project proposed for construction, offshore Massachusetts has been slowed for a decade by opposition from Nantucket residents who say the project will raise power prices and cause aesthetic pollution. Offshore wind capacity proposed for Maine would be located more than 10 miles out from Maine's coast, and stands a better chance of actually being constructed, Stanislaw said.

While technology will play a critical role in reducing water usage and improving efficiency, the public and private sectors also need to establish a water stewardship strategy for addressing the water side of the energy/water equation, Stanislaw and Sarni said, including the assessment of how water usage and potential scarcity can impact internal operations, supply chain business partners, and other stakeholders in the watershed.

Back to Part 1: Ecosphere Offers Chemical-Free Water Treatment for Hydraulic Fracturing

Back to Part 2: Wastewater Market to Grow as Hydraulic Fracturing Activity Grows Globally


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