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Shale-Energy Growth Slowed by Lack of Fresh Water

Innovation in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques is driving the rapid development of shale resources (which include shale gas, natural gas liquids and tight oil) across the U.S. and Canada. Already, known shale deposits worldwide have significantly increased the volume of the world’s natural gas and oil resources. Governments from Argentina and the UK, to Mexico and China, have started to explore the commercial viability of their shale reserves.

The potential for expansion is huge: known shale gas deposits worldwide add 47% to the global technically recoverable natural gas resources, and underground stores of tight oil add 11% to the world’s technically recoverable oil.

But as countries escalate their shale exploration, according to a new report from the World Resources Institute, limited availability of freshwater could become a stumbling block. Extracting shale resources requires large amounts of water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing. In most cases, these demands are met by freshwater, making companies developing shale significant users and managers of water at local and regional levels, often in competition with farms, households, and other industries. 

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