Energy Policy Act of 2005

Basin-Scale Produced Water Management Tools and Options, Uinta Basin, Utah


Primary Performer
Utah Geologic Survey (Salt Lake City, UT)

Additional Participants
Anadarko Petroleum
El Paso E&P
EOG Resources
QEP Resources
XTO Energy

This project will investigate the integrated management of water production and disposal for shale/tight-sand gas in the Uinta Basin (UB), across many producers, and with multiple reuse or disposal options. The program will comprise five major components: 1) Compilation and analysis within a geographical information systems (GIS) format of past and new information on: the thickness, structure, depth, and lithologic nature of all aquifer/reservoir units in the basin from the surface down through the Glen Canyon Group; the regional variations in quality of water, flow direction, and temperature produced from the various shale/tight sand gas reservoirs across the Uinta Basin; the location, saturated volume, and quality of alluvial aquifers; the existing infrastructure for water management/reuse; the energy generation potential of geothermal produced waters; and location and geochemical and hydrological characteristics of aquifers used/proposed for disposal of produced water or concentrated brines. 2) Compilation and statistical analysis of water production quantity and quality to identify and forecast produced water production volume trends for each discrete shale/tight sand gas producing interval, and possibly include changes in water quality over the life of reservoir’s production development if analyses over time are available. The geostatistical characterization of the basin’s produced water streams will help analyze the quality and quantity of potential future produced water streams and the options for treatment, transportation, disposal, geothermal energy production, and alternative use options. 3) Development of alluvial aquifer sensitivity/vulnerability models to potential contamination from fluids associated with shale/tight sand gas development in the UB. 4) An evaluation of produced water management practices and recommendations for best management practices. 5) An extensive program of outreach and technology transfer to gather input and disseminate the results of the research. Model development, and presentations of progress reports and final research results, will foster extensive collaboration among producers, users, regulators, and local water management interests, providing insight and information necessary for effective protection of alluvial aquifers, sustainable produced water management, as well as potential for beneficial use.

Science-base decision support models would help industry, particularly small producers, and regulators alike in making optimum management decisions, and provide sound scientific information to allay public concerns about the potential for drinking water contamination. The aquifer, produced water quantity and quality geostatistical models, ground water sensitivity study, and best practice recommendations would be developed collaboratively with input from industry as well as regulators to provide a framework to address the divergent water use and disposal interests of various stakeholders. The produced water models for the various reservoirs in the basin will allow stakeholders to evaluate the cause and effect of the timing and rate of unconventional gas development drilling decisions on both their operations and those of other operators, allow the evaluation of water input and output impacts and consequences of various unconventional gas development decisions, and ultimately allow an improved understanding of complex interactions typical of produced water management systems. Decision support models built with components on estimates of water needs for drilling and fracture stimulation, options for treatment, distribution, disposal, and reuse of produced water will allow efficient management and improved reuse of produced water flows in an arid regional on a basin-wide level across the UB, and potentially for other unconventional gas production areas of the United States.

Principal Investigator: Thomas C. Chidsey, Jr.

Project Cost:
DOE share: $526,711
Recipient share: $175,570

Project Duration: 2 years