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Water haulers face long lines

Posted 5/25/11 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

It takes as much as one million gallons of water to frac a single Bakken oil well. Frac water is freshwater that is used to pressurize and fracture oil-bearing formations to increase permeability and enhance the flow and recovery of oil.
Frac water is typically transported in 7,500 to 8,000-gallon tanker trucks from a freshwater well to the oil well location, so it takes at least 125 tanker loads per well. It’s easy to see that getting water to a well site can be a time-consuming effort, and if trucks are waiting in line for hours, like they were last Thursday in Watford City, it can be frustrating for the truck driver as well as the oil company.
Oil companies typically send trucks to the closest water source, and last Thursday it was easy to see that Watford City was the closest source for many drivers, as there were 25 waiting in line to fill their tanks.
“I’ve been waiting for three hours and I have about another hour till it’s my turn,” says Alan Barth, who has contracted his truck to Missouri Basin Well Service. “I do get paid by the hour, so that makes it a little easier waiting in line. But it is still frustrating because I want to be productive for the company.”
Some of the drivers in line would normally have gone to a water well site three miles west of Watford City where three trucks can fill at one time. But that well has been shut down because it has already met its yearly water sales quota.
“At the Simonson well, we could have run all of these trucks through in a third of the time,” says Bill Heiser, who has his truck contracted to Lee Excavating. “I think it is just ridiculous that the government has a quota on these wells. The water has to come from somewhere.”
It’s normal to see a line at the Watford City water salesman, but not one that steadily has 20 to 25 trucks in it.
“Yesterday I hauled eight loads, and today, it’s one o’clock now and I’m here for my third load,” comments Dean Tucker out of Athens, Ga. “I get paid per load, so it is frustrating to be sitting here waiting so long. I try to be patient and make the best of it, resting, catching up on paperwork, making phone calls and using the computer.”
Long lines at the water well may be hard on production for oil companies and truck drivers that get paid by the load, but they’re a good thing for the City of Watford City, the owner of the water well. In 2010, the water salesman sold 5,444,120 gallons of water, and so far for 2011, it has sold 1,656,440 gallons at a rate of $17.50 per 1,000 gallons. All of the revenue generated from Watford City’s water well goes into the water fund for future water projects.