Very often we underestimate the role that water plays in energy production. Think of renewable and non-renewable, and water will still be a vital component in how industries produce energy. Water exists naturally. It is believed
to occupy about 73% of the earth’s surface. But water also exists underground. This short article highlights how water helps energy production and power generation, and at the same time, how energy production pollutes our fresh water!
From the above we can deduce that agriculture and industry combined take up about 89% of our use of fresh water. How is this so?
Oil and gas
Water is used for hydraulic fractioning, drilling, upgrading and refining into products, injection into reservoirs etc. The potential for contamination lies within tailings seepage, fracturing fluids and flowback.
Water is used for washing to improve coal quality, re-vegetation of surface mines, transport via slurry and dust suppression in mining and hauling. The potential for water pollution is in seepage and mine drainage
Water is used for irrigation, washing and cooling in fuel production processes. The risk of contamination is that wastewater produced by refining and runoffs containing chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers and sediments will end up in water bodies or water table.
When we think of heat energy (fossil fuel, bioenergy and nuclear) and Concentrating solar power and geothermal, water is used to generate steam to turn shafts. It is also used to cool off the hot water for condensing and cleaning emissions control equipment. It is also used as system fluids or boiler feed. The danger here to pollution is that trapped emissions are washed off from equipment and they will surely end up somewhere, causing harm to ecosystems or drinking water bodies.
Hydropower is also somewhat guilty here. Water is stored in dams and released at high speed to generate power. The problem is that the temperatures, volume and natural flow are altered, and upon release, they impact ecosystems life-forms that depend on that water body.
Water is a scarce resource in many places, and it is staggering that industry and agriculture consume this much. The debate is what do we do? We need the energy, and we cannot survive without water!