Energy Resources Program
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
The USGS has released v2.3 of the National Produced Waters Geochemical Database and Map Viewer. This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Produced Waters Geochemical Database, which contains geochemical and other information for 114,943 produced water and other deep formation water samples of the United States, is an updated version of the 2002...
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Significant quantities of water are produced in the extraction of hydrocarbon energy resources (currently estimated at ~14 billion bbl/yr across the United States [1 bbl=42 gallons]). An additional volume of hydraulic fracturing (“fracing”) fluid, used to increase permeability, porosity, and hydrocarbon yield of reservoir rocks, is recovered at the end of the process (flowback fluids). Water is also generated from scrubbers in power plants, dewatering and extracting uranium resources, carbon sequestration, and development of unconventional energy sources. Although derived from a variety of different sources, these all represent sources of produced waters in that they are extracted in the process of trying to develop, extract, or dispose of energy-related products.
Produced waters typically exhibit significant variations in salinity, sodicity, trace element composition, and organic geochemistry resulting from differences in environmental and geologic conditions. Some of these waters contain relatively high salinity values, sometimes greater than seawater, while others are potable. However, continued concerns over diminishing water resources and expanding needs for next generation energy sources have lead to the characterization of produced waters as possible resources.
Researchers in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Energy Resources Program (ERP) and colleagues are actively engaged in examining several aspects related to characterization, use, and impact of produced waters. Currently research is focused in three areas:
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Coalbed methane (CBM), also called coalbed natural gas, currently contributes ~10% to U.S. natural gas production, but generates more water than traditional gas sources. CBM is generated by de-watering coal, and thus reducing pressure within the coal bed, allowing adsorbed volatile compounds, such as methane, to be transported out of the subsurface... [+]
and captured (fig. 1).
Water generated from CBM production is typically re-injected into a different unit, treated, beneficially used and/or directly discharged into ponds or surface waters. The USGS and colleagues are involved in examining environmental impacts from several different disposal/beneficial use strategies for CBM Produced Waters.
One area of focus is the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming and Montana, the second largest producer of CBM in the United States. Coalbed methane activities within the Wyoming portion of the basin currently generate 570-680 million bbls of water per year (1bbl = 42 gallons), little of which is reinjected into the subsurface. The CBM produced waters from the PRB are Na-HCO3 type waters and contain relatively low concentrations of trace metals (Rice and others; 2000). However, some of the water samples collected from the basin exhibit low to moderate total dissolved solid concentrations (370-1,940 mg/L) and a relatively high sodium adsorption ratio (SAR=5.7-32). Direct discharge of these waters to the surface has the potential to damage soils and ecosystems. Additionally, infiltration of CBM waters have been shown to leach pre-existing salts from the unsaturated zone, and in some cases lead to high salinity plumes in shallow groundwater.
One method for using CBM produced water is the irrigation of crops via subsurface drip irrigation (fig. 2). However, few data exist which examine potential impacts from this technology. To better understand impacts of salt and water derived from CBM produced waters on a SDI system, the USGS and colleagues are investigating through application of geochemical and geophysical tools. Additionally, because CBM produced waters are derived from a coal, an organic-rich substance, they often contain elevated levels of organic compounds. Organic compounds are indicative of energy sources potentially available for biological organisms to potentially generate additional CBM, through biogenic processes. Alternately, some of these compounds are toxicants and may present environmental concerns. Therefore further work is being conducted to better understand the behavior and distribution of organic compounds in CBM produced waters.
Rice, C.A. and Nuccio, V., 2000, Water Produced with Coalbed Methane: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS-156-00.
Rice, C.A., Ellis, M.S., and Bullock, J.H., Jr., 2000, Water co-produced with coalbed methane in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming: preliminary compositional data: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00-372, 20 p.
Considerable work has been done to characterize the inorganic, major element chemistry of produced waters from western basins of the United States, but equivalent data for the Appalachian Basin are scarce, despite significant oil and gas production. Across the Appalachian Basin, salinities of produced waters range from fresh to more than 350,000 mg/L TDS... [+]
total dissolved solids; sea water is ~35,000 mg/L TDS). Initially, data from a variety of sources, including state and federal agencies, and possibly private sources, is being surveyed to compile basic information on the natural components of the deep groundwater. This information should be useful in advance planning for the disposal or possible recycling of produced formation water and flowback water. This information should be useful in advance planning for the disposal or possible recycling of produced formation water and flowback water.
A primary source of produced water geochemistry is a database compiled by Breit (2002) for localities throughout the United States, including 90 samples from the Appalachian Basin (fig. 1). The database reports the major cations and anions (i.e., Na, Ca, K, Mg, Cl, HCO3, and SO4) as well as mass and charge balance, pH, and total dissolved solids (TDS). The salinities of the Appalachian Basin produced waters compiled by Breit (2002) have a median of 246,000 mg/L TDS (fig. 2), markedly higher than for produced waters from almost all other oil and gas producing regions of the United States. The Rocky Mountain and Colorado Plateau regions, for example, have a median produced water salinity of 9000 mg/L TDS. The Appalachian Basin samples are predominantly Na-Cl-type waters; Ca is significant, but secondary to Na both in molality and equivalence. Concentrations of Mg, K, SO4 and HCO3, are minor to insignificant (fig. 3).
The waters in a given reservoir are most commonly a mix of fluids from multiple horizons that have migrated varying distances through the basin over geologic time. In some cases however, reservoir fluid represent connate water, or the fluid originally trapped during deposition of the reservoir strata. The Appalachian Basin samples of Breit (2002) were obtained from reservoirs of Pennsylvanian through Cambrian age, with a majority from Silurian and Devonian reservoirs (fig. 4). Overall, these samples are not sufficiently evenly distributed throughout the stratigraphic section to permit conclusions as to reservoir age vs. salinity.
The USGS is investigating additional sources of data beyond the database of Breit (2002) in order to address the following long term objectives:
New technologies have expanded domestic oil and gas production to include low-permeability formations once considered to be inaccessible, including the Bakken Formation in northern Montana and North Dakota, the Barnett Shale in Texas, and the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian states (fig. 1). Hydrocarbon production from these formations requires considerable quantities of fresh water (surface and/or groundwater) to... [+]
increase fluid conductivity of the reservoir unit through hydraulic fracturing (commonly called “fracing”). Fracing fluids must be removed prior to resource extraction. These returned fracing fluids, known as flowback water, generally contains salts and minerals from the formation in addition to the additives used to increase fracing efficiency. The large volumes of water involved in these practices (generally 1-5 million gallons per frac job) have already led to supply and disposal problems in some areas. To address such issues and to help stakeholders prepare appropriately, the USGS is developing water-budget methods for uses associated with oil and gas production. Established USGS energy assessments provide estimates of technically recoverable resources. These results will be extended to project the volume of water needed for hydrocarbon production.
The Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota (fig. 2) is the area of our initial focus because of (1) the large quantity of oil present in the Bakken Formation, and (2) the potential for impacts on the Prairie Pothole wetlands that host large numbers of migrating waterfowl. Current, rapidly escalating production of Bakken Formation oil a million or more gallons of fresh water per well for fracing. Historic and ongoing conventional oil production from other Williston Basin formations has resulted in large volumes of highly saline produced waters; in the past, some of these waters escaped into shallow aquifers and have impacted wetlands. USGS scientists are estimating the quantities of water (fracing and produced) that would be involved in a range of future hydrocarbon production scenarios and comparing these quantities with estimated total water budgets for the region.
by Madalyn S. Blondes1, Kathleen D. Gans2, Mark A. Engle1,3, Yousif K. Kharaka2, Mark E. Reidy1, Varun Saraswathula1, James J. Thordsen2, Elizabeth L. Rowan1, Eric A. Morrissey1
1U.S. Geological Survey, Eastern Energy Resources Science Center, Reston, VA, USA
2U.S. Geological Survey, National Research Program, Menlo Park, CA, USA
3Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA
For questions, comments, or to submit new data, please contact Madalyn S. Blondes, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: (703) 648-6509
Disclaimer: The data you have secured from the U.S. Geological Survey National Produced Waters Geochemical Database v2.3 are provisional and subject to revision. The data are released on the condition that neither the USGS nor the United States Government may be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use.
During hydrocarbon production, water is typically co-produced from the geologic formations producing oil and gas. Understanding the composition of these produced waters is important to help investigate the regional hydrogeology, the source of the water, the efficacy of water treatment and disposal plans, potential economic benefits of mineral commodities in the fluids, and the safety of potential sources of drinking or agricultural water. In addition to waters co-produced with hydrocarbons, geothermal development or exploration brings deep formation waters to the surface for possible sampling. This U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Produced Waters Geochemical Database, which contains geochemical and other information for 114,943 produced water and other deep formation water samples of the United States, is an updated version of the 2002 USGS Produced Waters Database (Breit and others, 2002). In addition to the major element data presented in the original, the new database contains trace elements, isotopes, and time-series data, as well as nearly 100,000 additional samples that provide greater spatial coverage from both conventional and unconventional reservoir types, including geothermal. The database is a compilation of 40 individual databases, publications, or reports. The database was created in a manner to facilitate addition of new data and correct any compilation errors, and is expected to be updated over time with new data as provided and needed. Table 1 shows the abbreviated ID of each input database (IDDB), the number of samples from each, and its reference. Table 2 defines the 190 variables contained in the database and their descriptions. The database variables are organized first with identification and location information, followed by well descriptions, dates, rock properties, physical properties of the water, and then chemistry. The chemistry is organized alphabetically by elemental symbol. Each element is followed by any associated compounds (e.g. H2S is found after S). After Zr, molecules containing carbon, organic compounds and dissolved gases follow. Isotopic data are found at the end of the dataset, just before the culling parameters.
The database is available in three different file formats: a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (.xlsx), a comma separated values (.csv) text file, and an .Rdata file for R users. There are two versions for each of these, one with a “c” suffix and one with an “n” suffix. The “c” files retain all text codes within the numeric variables that describe the data (e.g. “<0.01”, “
Best for quick plotting:
The documentation includes source information, compilation procedures, and variable tables:
Why some Public-Supply Wells are More Vulnerable to Contamination Than Others
USGS Podcast (Episode 120)
See Podcast Transcript
Contaminants in 20 Percent of U.S. Private Wells
USGS Podcast (Episode 90)
A GIS-based vulnerability assessment of brine contamination to aquatic resources from oil and gas development in eastern Sheridan County, Montana
Brine Contamination to Prarie Potholes from Energy Development in the Williston Basin
Examination of brine contamination risk to aquatic resources from petroleum development in the Williston Basin
Energy Resources Program - Environmental Effects
Energy Resources Program - Hydraulic Fracturing
USGS Health and Environment Fact Sheets
USGS National Water Information System: Web Interface
USGS Public Health Website
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report - Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas Production: Report Number GAO-12-156
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Journal Article - The chronic toxicity of sodium bicarbonate, a major component of coal bed natural gas produced waters
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Journal Article - Acute toxicity of sodium bicarbonate, a major component of coal bed natural gas produced waters, to 13 aquatic species as defined in the laboratory
"Produced Water" (Wikipedia)
Page Last Modified: Friday, December 08, 2017