The Ground Water Protection Council and the U.S. Department of Energy put together water use comparisons between energy resources and, surprisingly, natural gas development from deep shale used the least amount of water for the energy it produced.
The energy source that required the most amount of water was, unsurprisingly, plant-based biodiesel from soy, requiring a smacking 14,000 to 75,000 gallons of water per MMBtu of energy produced as compared to deep shale natural gas, which needed only 0.60 to 5.80 gallons, 2 gallons of which were estimated for transport of the natural gas.
One MMBtu, or 1 million British thermal units, a standard measurement for the energy content of fuels, was produced from these energy sources using the following amounts of water:
Deep shale natural gas 0.60-5.80 gallons
Nuclear (uranium ready to use in a power plant) 8-14 gallons
Conventional oil 8-20 gallons
Synfuel-coal gasification 11-26 gallons
Coal (ready to use in a power plant) 13-32 gallons
Oil shale 22-56 gallons
Tar sands/oil sands 27-68 gallons
Fuel ethanol from corn 2,510-29,100 gallons
Biodiesel from soy 14,000-75,000 gallons
Water facts from the U.S. government
Although deep shale gas operations produce comparably clean energy and use less water than all the energy sources noted above, the media coverage from this and other water-related issues and shale gas have Americans taking a closer look at water use, supplies and quality.