UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water use metrics for the determination of environmental impacts : regional assessment of upstream unconventional oil and gas McAuliff, Kelsey Lane


Technology and innovation have increased the economic viability of horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, leading to the rapid increase in unconventional resource development in North America over the past fifty years. The quick development of the unconventional industry has been met with debate and criticism regarding industry methods/standards, volumes of water used, and impacts on the environment. In parallel, the field of water use metrics has also experienced a surge in popularity, most notably with the application of the water footprinting concept to evaluate the water use of businesses and countries alike. However, water use metrics evaluating water use impact have not been applied in the context of evaluating water use in unconventional oil and gas (UOG), which have instead focused on completing water use inventories. In this thesis, water use practices during UOG have been critically reviewed and analyzed to identify water sources and volume patterns. The review of water use practices in UOG is then used to develop criteria for evaluating common water use metrics to determine their applicability for inventorying and assessing the impacts of water use in UOG. A decision tree has been proposed and developed to facilitate the selection of water use inventory and impact metrics. Finally, a case study implements the selected Water Stress Index (WSI) framework to complete a regional water use inventory and midpoint impact assessment within the Montney unconventional play trend in British Columbia, Canada. Uncertainty analysis is performed under present and future scenarios to evaluate inherent parameter, model, and scenario uncertainties. While water use metrics do not replace site-specific assessment, they are important components of effective water management and can inform decision making, data collection and prioritization, and existing and future regional water stress conditions.

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