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How does coalbed methane affect coal mining?
Who owns the produced water?
Where does the produced water go?
Is the produced water any good?
What if the water produced from a coalbed methane well is of poor quality?
Who can use the water and what can it be used for?
What if the landowner doesn't want the produced water?
How does coalbed methane production affect the shallow aquifers? Is the water produced offset by recharge elsewhere?
Who do I contact about coalbed methane?
References

COALBED METHANE IN WYOMING
By Rodney H. De Bruin, Robert M. Lyman,
Richard W. Jones, and Lance W. Cook

How does coalbed methane affect coal mining?
Coalbed methane operations can affect coal mining. Wells drilled ahead of an advancing mine must be removed or barriers must be left to protect the well in question. Leaving a barrier around the well would probably affect the well's performance: if the well were in the same coal that is being mined, the fluid and gas flow necessary for the well to produce may be destroyed or disrupted and the drainage area of the well may be restricted. Produced water discharged to the surface upstream from a mine could create water control and runoff problems not present or anticipated in the original mine plan. The mine operators may have to re-engineer their mine designs to handle the additional water and re-work their reclamation plans to include new wetland areas. From a more positive standpoint, dewatering and degassing the coal in advance of mining could eliminate or lessen some pre-mining activities. Coal mining can affect the coalbed methane recovery by removing the coal and thus, the gas reservoir itself. Coal mining can also remove some of the water in the coal nearest the mine, thus stimulating more free gas production as coalbed methane operations approach the active mine areas.
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Who owns the produced water?
The operator of the well, who has obtained a water well permit with the State of Wyoming's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), is responsible for the water. Each coalbed methane well must be permitted as both a gas well and a water well. At least three permits are required to operate a coalbed methane well: an application for permit to drill (APD), a water permit, and a water discharge permit.
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Where does the produced water go?
Most water produced from a coalbed methane well is currently discharged at the surface and runs off into surface drainages, or it flows into ponds where it can seep back into the soil or evaporate.
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Is the produced water any good?
The produced coalbed methane water in the Powder River Coal Field, Wyoming generally meets drinking water standards. It is fresh, potable, and suitable for stock watering and human needs. In other places in the basin and in other parts of Wyoming, this may not be the case. Water quality studies will be needed continuously to identify areas of concern and ensure that appropriate action and remedies are taken to protect the quality of the state's waters.
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What if the water produced from a coalbed methane well is of poor quality?
State and federal standards for produced water force producers to maintain proper water quality. For example, if the produced water is of poor quality, it cannot be discharged into drainages. Options such as lined impoundments (evaporation ponds), chemical treatment, or re-injection of the water into other aquifers can be considered in isolated areas of poor water quality. Monitoring wells are continually being put in place to measure flows, drawdown, and quality; other studies will be undertaken to determine areas of water quality concern.
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Who can use the water and what can it be used for?
Because most of the water is of good quality, it is suitable for many uses. Ranching and farming uses include livestock watering, field irrigation, and drinking water. It has been proposed as a separate or supplemental source for municipal water in some areas and its use in a coal slurry pipeline is even being considered. Wildlife management groups see the creation of new wetlands as a plus for many wildlife species; fisheries groups have proposed reservoirs for fishing and other recreational uses of the waters. Additional uses proposed for the water include various industrial purposes such as cooling water for coal-fired power plants, synfuels, and even coal gasification.
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What if the landowner doesn't want the produced water?
The State of Wyoming encourages the coalbed methane operator and the surface landowner to cooperate with each other and to explore suitable ways to handle produced coalbed methane water in a mutually beneficial way. It may be possible to pipe the water off a property or send it down stream to those that would like the additional water.
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How does coalbed methane production affect the shallow aquifers?
Coalbed methane wells pump water from the coal seam when the coal is the local aquifer. Water levels can be lowered and gas could flow from local water wells. This means that some water wells in the coal can be adversely affected. Water regulatory officials encourage ranchers and other landowners to register their water wells so that if a water well is damaged, it can be remedied by the responsible coalbed methane operator. A few studies have shown that some shallow aquifers are being recharged with water produced during coalbed methane operations and production. Re-injection of water into specific shallow aquifers (or into the source coal bed itself) has not yet been done. Many landowners negotiating with coalbed methane operators are now signing letters of understanding, which specify what will be done if their wells are damaged by the coalbed methane activity. Copies of these sorts of agreements can be obtained through the Wyoming State Engineer's Office, upon request.
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Is the water produced offset by recharge elsewhere?
Recharge back into subsurface aquifers is constantly taking place, but it is not known how fast or into what aquifers the recharge is occurring. However, it may take hundreds of years to fully recharge the producing coal beds. As deeper coal beds are tapped for methane in multiple coal zones, it may be possible to re-inject water produced from the deep beds into the gas-depleted shallow coal beds, thus accelerating the natural recharge process.
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Who do I contact about coalbed methane?

  • Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: drilling permits (APDs or Applications for Permit to Drill) and production permits;
  • Wyoming State Engineer's Office: water well drilling and completion permits;
  • Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality: water discharge permits;
  • Wyoming State Geological Survey: technical assistance and information; and oil and gas and coalbed methane maps (see De Bruin, 1999 and De Bruin and others, 2000a, 2000b); and

Federal government agencies, including:

  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM),
  • U.S. Forest Service (FS),
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
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References Cited
Christiansen, R.C., 1991, Wyoming geologic highway map: GTR Mapping (formerly Western Geographics), scale 1:1,000,000, (color).

De Bruin, R.H., 1999, Oil and gas fields map of the Powder River Basin, Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Map Series 51, scale 1:350,000.

De Bruin, R.H., and Lyman, R.M., (in press), Coalbed methane in Wyoming: Wyoming Geological Association Guidebook, 1999 Field Conference, Tertiary Geology of the Powder River Coal Field.

De Bruin, R.H., Lyman, R.M., and Hallberg, L.L., 2000a, Coalbed methane activity in the eastern Powder River Coal Field, Campbell and Converse Counties, Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Coalbed Methane Map 00-1, scale 1:126,720.

De Bruin, R.H., Lyman, R.M., Hallberg, L.L., and Harrison, M.M., 2000b, Coalbed methane activity in the western Powder River Basin, Campbell, Johnson, and Sheridan Counties, Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Coalbed Methane Map 00-2, scale 1:126,720.

Gas Research Institute, 1999, North American coalbed methane resources map: Gas Research Institute, Chicago, Illinois.

Glass, G.B., 1997, Coal geology of Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Reprint 63 (Reprinted from Keystone Coal Industry Manual, 1997), 21 p.

Jones, R.W., 1990, Coal map of the Powder River Basin and adjacent areas, Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Map Series 33, scale 1:500,000 (color).

Jones, R.W., 1991, Coal map of Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Map Series 34, scale 1:500,000 (color).

Jones, R.W., and De Bruin, R.H., 1990, Coalbed methane in Wyoming: Wyoming State Geological Survey Public Information Circular 30, 15 p.

McCord, J.P., 1980, Geologic overview, coal, and coalbed methane resources of the Greater Green River Coal Region, Wyoming and Colorado: TRW Energy Systems Planning Division, McLean, Virginia, U.S. Department of Energy Contract No. DE-AC21- 78MC08089, 177 p.

Olive, W.W., 1957, The Spotted Horse coal field, Sheridan and Campbell Counties, Wyoming: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1050, 83 p.

Rice, D.D., and Claypool, G.E., 1981, Generation, accumulation, and resource potential of biogenic gas: American Association of Petroleum geologists Bulletin, v.65, no. 1, p.5-25.

Rightmire, C.T,, 1984, Coalbed methane resources, in Rightmire, C.T,, Eddy, G.E., and Kirr, J.N., editors, Coalbed methane resources of the United States: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Studies in Geology Series No. 17, p. 1-13.

Shirley, K., 2000, Wyoming enjoys coal gas play: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Explorer, v. 21, no. 4 (April, 2000), p. 16, 18-20, 22-23.

Yee, D. Seidle, J.P., and Hanson, W.B., 1993, Gas sorption on coal and measurements content, in Law, B.E., and Rice, D.D., editors, Hydrocarbons from Coal: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Studies in Geology No. 38. p. 203-218. (TOP of page)

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