Case Studies

Quenching Thirst in the Duvernay

About 23 million cubic meters (m3) of water was used for fraccing in Alberta in 2017 (AER, 2018), and nearly 99% of that volume was non-saline.

Within the Duvernay fairway (figure 1), the Spirit River has been the most drilled zone by well count, followed by the Cardium and the Duvernay. Though it has fewer wells, the Duvernay far exceeds the Spirit River and Cardium in terms of total volume of water pumped (figure 2). In 2017, 8.6 million m3 was pumped into the Duvernay, nearly three times that of the combined pumped volume of the Cardium and Spirit River (geoLOGIC, 2019). Data for 2018 are incomplete, but Canadian Discovery estimates that the total Duvernay volume may be as high as 14 million m3.

The median volumes on a per well basis have consistently increased from 2015 to 2018 for every zone, with the Duvernay consistently reporting the largest volumes (figure 3). In 2018, the median volume for the Duvernay was 54,000 m3, double that of the Montney (27,000 m3). Although Kaybob has the highest volume of total water pumped every year, operators in the East Shale Basin have used larger volumes on a per well basis than operators at Kaybob since 2017 (figure 4).

The Duvernay uses more frac water on a per well basis than other zones in Alberta and water use continues to trend sharply upwards. Currently, the majority of this water is sourced from surface waters but as development and public concerns continue to grow, a move towards groundwater sources may be desirable.  


Alberta Energy Regulator. 2018. Alberta Energy Industry Water Use Report – Hydraulic Fracturing. Accessed July 2019.

geoLOGIC, 2019. Well Completions and Frac Database.

About the Author(s)

The author

Meridee joined Canadian Discovery in 2005 working withboth CDL'sIntelligence and Expertise groupsas well as with data management and GIS personnel to streamline geological mapping techniques. Currently, as Technical Analysis Director, Meridee plays a key role in Intelligence projects and products, including developing, editing andmanaging content for Discovery Digest, CDL's weekly publication.She has worked with Amoco in Calgary, Houston and London, gaining experience in Canadian and international exploration and development.Meridee holds a B.Sc. (Geological Engineering) from the University of Saskatchewan and an Applied Bachelor of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

The author

Bio coming soon.