Little water used so far in Piceance Basin coal bed methane extraction |

Little water used so far in Piceance Basin coal bed methane extraction

Phillip YatesPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS A study has found that coal bed methane production in the Piceance Basin has resulted in the consumption of less than 1 acre-foot of water, or about 326,000 gallons of water. The hydrologist who participated in the study called the total an extremely small figure. An acre foot of water is enough to supply a typical family or two for a year, depending on their use.The study was commissioned because of concerns that the production of water from coal bed methane wells could cause stream depletions or reductions in spring flows, which could potentially impact water rights holders, the state of Colorado and downstream water users not in Colorado. The study was funded by the state legislature and coordinated by the state Division of Water Resources, Colorado Geological Survey and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Boulder-based consultants S.S. Papadopulos and Associates drafted the report.The energy-rich Piceance Basin geological area stretches across northwest Colorado and includes western Garfield County.The extremely low level of water depletion is because of the limited scope of coal bed methane development in the Piceance Basin, said Deborah Hathaway, principal hydrologist with S.S. Papadopulos & Associates. Similar studies, which Hathaway described as preliminary, were also conducted in the Raton and San Juan basins. Both areas saw higher rates of water depletion, Hathaway said.Commercial-scale production of coal bed methane which is a form of natural gas found in coal deposits first started in the Piceance Basin in 1989. Attempts at economic CBM (coal bed methane) production in the basin continued into the early 1990s, but there has been only limited CBM resource development in the basin since 1995, the study said.Coal bed methane production accounts for about a 12th of natural gas production in the United States, according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Energy.The study also found that because of the poor quality of the water produced from coal bed methane wells, there are no viable options for surface discharge of water that could flow to a stream, and no other beneficial uses for the produced water. And because of significant technical and regulatory hurdles, it is unlikely that the construction of necessary infrastructure to treat or transfer water to points in the basin will be economically feasible in the near future, the study said.Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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