MANAGEMENT AND EFFECTS OF Coalbed Methane Produced Water IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES

Committee on Management and Effects of Coalbed Methane Development and Produced Water in the Western United States

Committee on Earth Resources

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Water Science and Technology Board

Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu



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Committee on Management and Effects of Coalbed Methane Development and Produced Water in the Western United States Committee on Earth Resources Board on Earth Sciences and Resources Water Science and Technology Board Division on Earth and Life Studies THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS • 500 Fifth Street, N.W. • Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations contained in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bureau of Land Management. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. government. Supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management under Award No. L08AC14198. International Standard Book Number-13: 0-309-15432-1 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-15432-4 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet http://www.nap.edu Cover: The images of natural gas and water illustrate the need to consider management of two resources im- portant to the United States and particularly to the arid West. Cover design by Anne Rogers. Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the Na- tional Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the Na- tional Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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COMMITTEE ON MANAGEMENT AND EFFECTS OF COALBED METHANE DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCED WATER IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES WILLIAM L. FISHER (Chair), University of Texas, Austin JAMES W. BAUDER, Montana State University, Bozeman WILLIAM H. CLEMENTS, Colorado State University, Fort Collins INEZ HUA, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana ANN S. MAEST, Stratus Consulting, Boulder, Colorado ARTHUR W. RAY, Wiley Environmental Strategies, Columbia, Maryland W. C. “RUSTY” RIESE, BP America, Inc., Katy, Texas DONALD I. SIEGEL, Syracuse University, New York GEOFFREY THYNE, University of Wyoming, Laramie National Research Council Staff ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Study Director STEPHANIE E. JOHNSON, Senior Program Officer COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate (from November 1, 2009) NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Research Associate (until October 31, 2009) 

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COMMITTEE ON EARTH RESOURCES CLAYTON R. NICHOLS (Chair), Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (Retired), Ocean Park, Washington JAMES A. BRIERLEY, Brierley Consultancy LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado WILLIAM S. CONDIT, Independent Consultant, Santa Fe, New Mexico ELAINE T. CULLEN, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Spokane Research Laboratory (Retired), Chattaroy, Washington GONZALO ENCISO, Oil and Gas Exploration Consultant, Houston, Texas MICHELLE MICHOT FOSS, University of Texas, Austin DONALD JUCKETT, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (Retired), Springfield, Virginia ANN S. MAEST, Stratus Consulting, Boulder, Colorado LELAND L. MINK, U.S. Department of Energy Geothermal Program (Retired), Worley, Idaho MARY M. POULTON, University of Arizona, Tucson NORMAN H. SLEEP, Stanford University, Stanford, California RICHARD J. SWEIGARD, University of Kentucky, Lexington National Research Council Staff ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer ERIC EDKIN, Program Associate NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Research Associate i

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BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES CORALE L. BRIERLEY (Chair), Brierley Consultancy, LLC, Highlands Ranch, Colorado KEITH C. CLARKE, University of California, Santa Barbara DAVID J. COWEN, University of South Carolina, Columbia WILLIAM E. DIETRICH, University of California, Berkeley ROGER M. DOWNS, Pennsylvania State University, University Park JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara KATHERINE H. FREEMAN, Pennsylvania State University, University Park WILLIAM L. GRAF, University of South Carolina, Columbia RUSSELL J. HEMLEY, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C. MURRAY W. HITZMAN, Colorado School of Mines, Golden EDWARD KAVAZANJIAN, JR., Arizona State University, Tempe ROBERT B. McMASTER, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis CLAUDIA INÉS MORA, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico BRIJ M. MOUDGIL, University of Florida, Gainesville CLAYTON R. NICHOLS, Department of Energy, Idaho Operations Office (Retired), Ocean Park, Washington JOAQUIN RUIZ, University of Arizona, Tucson PETER M. SHEARER, University of California, San Diego REGINAL SPILLER, Allied Energy, Houston, Texas RUSSELL E. STANDS-OVER-BULL, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Denver, Colorado TERRY C. WALLACE, JR., Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico HERMAN B. ZIMMERMAN, National Science Foundation (Retired), Portland, Oregon National Research Council Staff ANTHONY R. de SOUZA, Director ELIZABETH A. EIDE, Senior Program Officer DAVID A. FEARY, Senior Program Officer ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer SAMMANTHA L. MAGSINO, Program Officer MARK D. LANGE, Associate Program Officer LEA A. SHANLEY, Postdoctoral Fellow JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Financial and Administrative Associate NICHOLAS D. ROGERS, Financial and Research Associate ii

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COURTNEY R. GIBBS, Program Associate JASON R. ORTEGO, Research Associate ERIC J. EDKIN, Senior Program Assistant TONYA E. FONG YEE, Senior Program Assistant iii

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WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD CLAIRE WELTY (Chair), University of Maryland, Baltimore County JOAN EHRENFELD, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey SIMON GONZALEZ, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City CHARLES N. NAAS, Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania JAMES M. HUGHES, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia THEODORE L. HULLAR, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York KIMBERLEY L. JONES, Howard University, Washington, D.C. G. TRACY MEHAN III, The Cadmus Group, Inc., Arlington, Virginia JAMES K. MITCHELL, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg DAVID H. MOREAU, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill LEONARD SHABMAN, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. DONALD I. SIEGEL, Syracuse University, New York SOROOSH SOROOSHIAN, University of California, Irvine HAME M. WATT, Independent Consultant, Washington, D.C. JAMES L. WESCOAT, JR., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign GARRET P. WESTERHOFF, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., White Plains, New York National Research Council Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director JEFFREY W. JACOBS, Scholar LAURA J. EHLERS, Senior Staff Officer STEPHANIE E. JOHNSON, Senior Staff Officer LAURA J. HELSABECK, Associate Staff Officer M. JEANNE AQUILINO, Financial and Administrative Associate ANITA A. HALL, Senior Program Associate ELLEN A. DeGUZMAN, Research Associate MICHAEL STOEVER, Senior Program Assistant STEPHEN RUSSELL, Program Assistant ix

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Preface The committee has approached this congressionally mandated task to examine the management of coalbed methane (CBM) produced water in six western states within a national context of increasing demand to develop domestic energy resources in environ- mentally and economically viable ways. The production of CBM for use as an energy source requires pumping water from coalbeds to release methane from the coal surfaces. The CBM “produced water” that results from this pumping process is managed through treatment, storage, disposal, and/or use, under a complex set of federal and state regulations. Although produced water and its management are common to the majority of oil and gas production activities, CBM produced water has been the subject of specific, recent at- tention for several reasons: (1) the CBM industry is relatively young—with most operations in the western United States only producing methane since the 1990s—and development has been rapid in several regions; (2) the length of time to observe and understand potential effects on the environment from CBM produced water has been correspondingly brief; (3) the relatively low salinity of some CBM produced water has allowed consideration of this water for various practical uses in the arid West; and (4) litigation within and among states, citizens, and industry sharing CBM basins and watersheds has resulted from differing ap- proaches to CBM produced water management. To address the study, the committee reviewed documents produced by federal and state agencies and consultants, peer-reviewed literature, online databases and resources, and information requested from and submitted by external sources, including three public meetings and six public teleconferences. The committee held its public meetings in Wash- ington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Each public meeting included dialogue with the study sponsor, the Bureau of Land Management, other federal and state agencies, academic and national laboratory researchers, and industry representatives who addressed various points of the committee’s study charge. An opportunity for public input was provided at the committee meeting in Denver. xi

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PREFACE The committee was sensitive to the interest in understanding the effects of CBM produced water on the environment when it is treated and released for disposal or might be used for any beneficial purposes. The committee was thus conscientious in its efforts to identify and distinguish between scientifically and technically documented effects of CBM produced water on the environment; those effects that may be considered “potential” effects through laboratory studies, for example, but without field documentation; and reports of effects that do not yet have enough supporting data or independent analysis to determine cause. In a comparable way, hydraulic fracturing was not a specific item the committee was tasked to address but was a topic raised to the committee’s attention during the course of this study. Hydraulic fracturing uses fluid injection to stimulate oil and gas production in many oil and gas wells but is employed rarely, or not at all, in CBM operations where coal seams are relatively near to the surface and have correspondingly high initial water contents. Without a direct link between hydraulic fracturing and the largest volumes of CBM pro- duced water that are managed in the West, the committee addressed hydraulic fracturing only briefly in the report. Throughout its examination of CBM produced water management, the committee has assumed that operators, regulatory agencies, water treatment companies, and private citizens alike use appropriate and professional procedures in their operations and in their manage- ment of produced water. The committee has thus focused its efforts on ways in which the current regulatory, legal, environmental, energy, and economic framework functions with respect to management of produced water from CBM operations and how this framework could be supported and improved. Nonetheless, in some instances data and information have demonstrated that “best practices” have not been followed in the management of CBM produced water and the committee has noted the situations which came to our attention. As demands continue to couple energy resource development with environmental stew- ardship, demands for water resources and effective management of water for multiple uses will likewise continue to grow. In this context, an examination of CBM produced water management is timely, and the committee hopes this report informs the decision-making process with respect to important energy and water resources. William Fisher Chair xii

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Acknowledgments In addition to its own expertise, the committee relied on input from numerous external professionals and members of the public with extensive experience in various aspects of coalbed methane development and produced water management. All of these individuals provided presentations, data, analyses, and illustrative figures and images which assisted the committee in understanding the scope of the issue and the roles played by federal, state, and tribal governments and agencies, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, research organizations, and the public. This information was very important to the com- mittee in formulating the report. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals, and note particularly their prompt and thorough responses to our inquiries throughout the study’s course. In particular, the committee would like to thank the following individuals: Troy Bauder, Doug Beagle, Diedre Boysen, John Boysen, Curtis Brown, David Brown, James Burd, Aïda Farag, Mark Fesmire, Don Fischer, Carol Frost, Carey Johnston, James Keener, David Mankiewicz, Vince Matthews, Elizabeth Meredith, Terrance Olson, Kevin Rein, Ashley Roberts, Kathy Shreve, Timothy Spisak, Carrie Steinhorst, David Stewart, Jason Thomas, Ralf Topper, John Veil, John Wheaton, and Michael Wireman. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse per- spectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review com- ments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: David Burnett, Texas A&M University, College Station xiii

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Debra L. Donahue, University of Wyoming, Laramie Jörg E. Drewes, Colorado School of Mines, Golden Gretchen K. Hoffman, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Socorro Lawrence Y.C. Leong, Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, Irvine, California Thomas Meixner, University of Arizona, Tucson Dianne R. Nielson, State of Utah, Salt Lake City Russell E. Stands-Over-Bull, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Golden, Colorado George Vance, University of Wyoming, Laramie John Veil, Argonne National Laboratory, Washington, D.C. Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and sug- gestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by William S. Condit, Independent Consultant, Santa Fe, New Mexico and Michael C. Kavanaugh, Malcom Pirnie, Inc. Emeryville, California. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were care- fully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. xi

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Contents SUMMARY 1 1 METHANE AND WATER IN COALBEDS 11 National Context for Future CBM Development and Produced Water Management, 12 Report Overview, 15 Concluding Remarks, 17 References, 17 2 COALBED METHANE PRODUCED WATER IN WESTERN U.S. BASINS: HYDROGEOLOGICAL AND GEOCHEMICAL FOUNDATIONS 19 Hydrogeological Foundations, 19 Case Studies: Regional Hydrogeology and Hydraulics of the San Juan and Powder River Basins, 37 Geochemical Foundations, 41 Ground- and Surface Water Connectivity and Groundwater Modeling: Data Gaps and Uncertainties, 47 Chapter Summary, 50 References, 52 3 REGULATORY CONTEXT FOR COALBED METHANE PRODUCED WATER MANAGEMENT 57 Water Rights in the United States, 58 Federal Authorities, 64 Western State Authorities, 76 x

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CONTENTS Chapter Summary, 85 References, 87 4 COALBED METHANE PRODUCED WATER MANAGEMENT AND BENEFICIAL USES 91 Options for CBM Produced Water Management, 91 CBM Water as a Beneficial Commodity?, 104 Chapter Summary, 110 References, 111 5 ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF COALBED METHANE DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCED WATER MANAGEMENT 113 Groundwater, 113 Surface Water, 124 Soil Quality and Agricultural Production, 135 Ecological Effects, 137 Registered Citizen Complaints, Litigation, and Public Concerns Heard by the Committee, 148 Chapter Summary, 151 References, 156 6 TECHNOLOGIES AND COSTS FOR COALBED METHANE PRODUCED WATER TREATMENT 161 Primary Treatment Technologies for CBM Produced Water, 162 Treatment and Disposal Costs, 175 Chapter Summary, 177 References, 178 7 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 181 CBM Produced Water Hydrogeology: The Importance of Establishing Hydraulic Connectivity, 182 CBM Produced Water Effects on Surface Water and Groundwater Resources and the Environment, 183 Regulatory Framework, 187 Closing Remarks, 188 xi

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Contents APPENDIXES A Legislative Authorization Language H.R. 6—Energy Policy Act of 2005 Section 1811. Coal Bed Methane Study 191 B Committee and Staff Biographical Sketches 193 C Presentations to the Committee 199 D Information Inventory 201 E Historical Significance of a Water “Compact” 209 F Tribal Management of Coalbed Methane Development and Produced Water 213 G Acronyms and Abbreviations 217 xii

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