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Overuse and waste of invaluable water resources within the oil and gas sector


RepRisk is the leading provider of dynamic business intelligence on environmental social and governance risks.

In 2010, access to clean water received recognition as a basic human right through a majority vote of the United Nations General Assembly. According to the UN, nearly 900 million people have no access to clean drinkable water, almost 1.8 billion live in areas where water is scarce, and a further 1.6 billion live in countries, which lack the infrastructure to extract water from natural sources. The World Bank calculates that by 2030, water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent, as a growing world population demands more water for agricultural, industrial and personal use.


The overuse and waste of invaluable water resources within the oil and gas sector is often related to the practice of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) or tar sands extraction. Fracking, a process patented by the US company Halliburton, uses huge quantities of water, which is pumped underground together with sand and chemicals, to break apart rock formations and release gas.

In the past 12 months alone, RepRisk detected widespread criticism against fracking in locations across the globe, including the US, Europe, and South Africa. Much of this criticism focused on water contamination. In Poland, critics expressed concern about the effects of fracking on water sources. In France, Greenpeace called on the government to revoke the drilling licenses of Hess Corp and Toreador Resources due to concerns about excess water consumption and pollution. In South Africa farmers are opposing plans by Sasol and Shell to drill for gas using the fracking technique, claiming that it uses valuable water resources and produces toxic wastewater.

Similarly, tar sands extraction has proved to be highly contentious, with the majority of water-related criticism focused on operations in Canada and the US. In the Canadian province of Alberta, local authorities filed 19 lawsuits against the Norwegian company Statoil for alleged violation of water usage at its Leismer Oil Sands Project. Also in Alberta, a USD 33 million lawsuit targeted Encana Corp for alleged methane-contamination of water resources. In Utah, environmentalists claim that Earth Energy’s planned oil sands operations will pollute groundwater. In April 2011, a New York Times article alleged that TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline project might threaten underground reservoirs in the US.

Outside of North America, Total’s test mining of tar sands around Madagascar’s Bemolanga and Tsimi- roro Oil Fields has been strongly criticized due to potential impacts on the water supply of over 120,000 people should it proceed with the drilling. Shareholders at the annual general meetings of Total, Exxon and Chevron have also voiced concerns about tar sands activities.

Other gas extraction methods have also been criticized in relation to the overuse or contamination of water resources. In Australia, environmentalists oppose the Queensland Curtis LNG Project and the gas projects of Santos, Shell, ConocoPhillips and the BG Group in Queensland. In Nigeria, Shell’s pollution of water sources due to pipeline ruptures was again highlighted in the past year.


For more information about the RepRisk tool or this report on water scarcity and contamination, please contact Karen Reiner at [email protected], ph: +41 43 300 54 48, or visit our website:


The information herein (other than disclosed information relating to RepRisk) was obtained from various public sources. RepRisk AG does not guarantee its accuracy. The information contained in this report is not intended to be relied upon as, or to be a substitute for, specific professional advice. No responsibility for loss occasioned to any persons and legal entities acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material in this publication can be accepted.

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