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Index> Environment > United States of America > Wyoming > The Powder River Basin

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"Father of Fracking"
George Mitchell
concerns over environmental
impacts of fracking

History of Fracking
Only a new technology

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A Texan tragedy

Gas injection may have triggered earthquakes in Texas

California Lags in Fracking Regulations

All In for California Water

Fracking in Michigan

Fracking in Michigan Potential Impact on Health, Environment, Economy

Hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale

Methane Gas from Marcellus Shale Drilling

Marcellus Shale Gas Economics

Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

Pennsylvania Fracking

Fracking in Virginia

Lesson From Wyoming Fracking

Water Pollution from Fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Substantial Water Pollution Risks

Methane in drinking water wells

Abandoned gas wells leak

Natural Gas Leaks Discovered in Boston

Methane Leaks Under Streets of Boston

Methane leaks make fracking dirty

Fracking effects real estate values

Fracking stimulates earthquakes

Protecting Gas Pipelines From Earthquakes

Gas Pipeline Earthquake - Simulations

America's crumbling pipelines

Averting Pipeline Failures

Dangers to Underground Pipelines

Gas Pipelines Could Serve as Wireless Links

Government Action needed on a National Energy Policy

EPA Releases Update on Ongoing Hydraulic Fracturing Study

Solar Booster Shot for Natural Gas Power Plants

Natural Gas Pricing Reform to Facilitate Carbon Tax Policy

Investing in fracking

What Oil Prices Have in Store?

Methane Out, Carbon Dioxide In

Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

Professor Ingraffea

Anti-Fracking Billboard

Natural Gas Drilling

Threats to Biodiversity

Pronghorn Migration
hindered by gas development

Microbes in a Fracking Site

Protozoa May Hold Key to World Water Safety

Shale Gas Production

Research into the Fracking Controversy

Convert Methane Into Useful Chemicals

Methane Natural Gas Into Diesel

'Natural Gas' at the molecular level

Arctic Methane risks

Arctic Methane Seeps

Great Gas Hydrate Escape

Undersea Methane Seep Ecosystem

Methane in the Atmosphere of Early Earth

Methane Natural Gas Linked to Climate Change

Cutting Methane Pollutants Would Slow Sea Level Rise

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Shale Gas


The Powder River Basin

Based on the information for the Powder River Basin, the coalbeds that are being developed, or which may be developed, for coalbed methane in the Powder River Basin are also USDWs.

Coalbeds in this basin are interspersed with sandstone and shale at varying depths. The Fort Union Formation that supplies municipal water to the City of Gillette is the same formation that contains the coals that are developed for coalbed methane.

The coalbeds contain and transmit more water than the sandstones.

The sandstones and coalbeds have been used for both the production of water and the production of coalbed methane. TDS levels in the water produced from coalbeds meet the water quality criteria for USDWs.

The information available indicates that currently hydraulic fracturing is not widely used in this region due to concerns about the potential for increased groundwater flow into the coalbed methane production wells and the consequent collapse of open hole wells in coal upon dewatering.

According to the available literature, where hydraulic fracturing has been used in this basin, it has not been an effective method for extracting methane.

Hydraulic fracturing has been conducted primarily with water, or gelled water and sand, although the recorded use of a solution of KCl was identified in the literature.

Background

The Powder River Basin is located in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. The basin covers an area of approximately 25,800 square miles (Larsen, 1989), approximately 75 percent of which is within Wyoming (Figure A5-1).

In 1990, Wyoming withdrew an average of 384 million gallons per day of groundwater for a variety of purposes, the majority of which was agriculture. Approximately 13 percent was used for potable water supplies.

Approximately 22 percent was withdrawn by industry and mining (Brooks, 2001).

The proportion of this 22 percent attributable to coalbed methane production is increasing rapidly, and a concern exists that such good quality water in a semiarid region should be conserved (Quarterly Review, 1993).

In 1990, before the rapid expansion of coalbed methane extraction in the region, Campbell County was identified by the USGS as an area of major groundwater withdrawal.

Approximately 80 percent of Wyoming residents rely on groundwater as their drinking water source (Powder River Basin Resource Council, 2001).

Few public water supply systems exist in the Powder River Basin due to relatively low population densities. The City of Gillette, the largest in the major coalbed methane development area (Figure A5- 2), uses groundwater from two sources identified as “in-town wells”, and the “Madison Well Field”.

The city has experienced considerable drawdown and reduced production from their in-town wells that are completed in the Fort Union and Lance/Fox Hills aquifers (Brooks, 2001).

It is unclear how much of the drawdown is attributable to withdrawals for water supply as a consequence of population growth and how much is attributable to nearby coalbed methane production.

Drawdowns of up to 80 feet have been measured in wells near active mines;
however, water levels have been reported to be unaffected at distances of more than three miles from mines (Randall, 1991).

Basin Geology

The Powder River Basin is a thick sequence of sedimentary rock formed in a large downwarp within the Precambrian basement.

The Powder River Basin contains approximately 60 percent of the coalbed methane reserves in the State of Wyoming

Fifty percent of the basin (Figure A5-2) is believed to have the potential for production of coalbed methane (Powder River Coalbed Methane Information Council, 2000). Much of the coalbed methane-related activity has been north and south of Gillette in northeastern Wyoming (Figure A5-2).

The majority of the potentially productive coal zones range from about 450 feet to over 6,500 feet below ground surface (Montgomery, 1999).

In addition to being an important resource for coalbed methane, the basin has also produced coal, petroleum, conventional natural gas, and uranium oxide (Law et al., 1991; Randall, 1991).

Recent estimates of coalbed methane reserves in the Powder River Basin have been as much as 40 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) (PRCMIC, 2000) but more conservative estimates range from 7 to 12 Tcf (Montgomery, 1999).

Annual production volume was estimated at 147 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2000 (GTI, 2002). In 2002, wells in the Powder River Basin produced about 823 million cubic feet (Mcf) per day of coalbed methane (DOE, 2002).

The information available indicates that hydraulic fracturing currently is not widely used in this region due to concerns about the potential for increased groundwater flow into the coalbed methane production wells and collapse of open hole wells in coal upon dewatering.

According to the available literature, where hydraulic fracturing has been used in this basin, it has not been an effective method for extracting methane.

Stable production is usually experienced for one to two years before production begins to decline (Montgomery, 1999).

Production often declines at a rate of 20 percent per year until the well is no longer economically useful (Montgomery, 1999).

Several options exist at that point, including re-fracturing the well, completing the well in a deeper coal formation, converting the well to a water supply well, or abandoning the well.

 

 

 

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