Energy Excursions

Role of Water in the Petroleum Industry

“Take an energy excursion on the role of water in the petroleum industry and gain insight on the challenges and potential opportunities related to produced water.” 


This lesson provides a general overview of the role water plays in the petroleum industry, with focus on hydraulic fracturing as a result of the Shale Revolution. Students will gain an understanding of the engineering and geologic considerations associated with hydraulic fracturing, as well as water management practices in the industry. Students will also learn about the significance and risks associated with produced water as a result of fracturing, and how it can be treated, disposed, and recycled. A case study on the Eagle Ford Shale helps show students the magnitude of water usage and produced water for hydraulic fracturing in shale plays across the country, and specifically in Texas. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Learn about water usage in the petroleum industry 
    • How is water used for drilling operations? 
    • How is water used for stimulation of wells, specifically hydraulic fracturing? 
  • Become familiar with the history, purpose, and processes behind hydraulic fracturing 
    • Learn about the importance of understanding faulting and stress regimes for hydraulic fracturing 
  • Gain an understanding of water management in the petroleum industry and the environmental risks of produced water 
    • What is the chemical composition of produced water? 
    • What are the biological effects and landscape impacts associated with produced water contamination? 
  • Learn about different ways produced water can be treated 
  • Gain a thorough understanding of how produced water can be disposed or recycled 
    • Where can produce water be disposed of and who regulates produced water disposal?
    • How can produced water be reused? 
  • Learn about water usage and produced water in the Eagle Ford Shale 
    • Where does the water come from for hydraulic fracturing in the Eagle Ford? 
    • Follow the spotlighted career of a scientist who specializes in hydrogeology and has made significant contributions studying water use and management related to oil and gas operations in Texas
Oklahoma Academic Standards
TEKS Standards
College Board Units and Topics
Next Generation Science Standards