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Environ Sci Technol. 2007 Sep 1;41(17):5953-9.

Trace element chemistry of coal bed natural gas produced water in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming.

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  • 1Department of Renewable Resources, University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3354, Laramie, Wyoming 82071-3354, USA.


Coal bed natural gas (CBNG) produced water is usually disposed into nearby constructed disposal ponds. Geochemistry of produced water, particularly trace elements interacting with a semiarid environment, is not clearly understood. The objective of this study was to collect produced water samples at outfalls and corresponding disposal ponds and monitor pH, iron (Fe), aluminum (Al), chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), arsenic (As), boron (B), selenium (Se), molybdenum (Mo), cadmium (Cd), and barium (Ba). Outfalls and corresponding disposal ponds were sampled from five different watersheds including Cheyenne River (CHR), Belle Fourche River (BFR), Little Powder River (LPR), Powder River (PR), and Tongue River (TR) within the Powder River Basin (PRB), Wyoming from 2003 to 2005. Paired t tests were conducted between CBNG outfalls and corresponding disposal ponds for each watershed. Results suggest that produced water from CBNG outfalls is chemically different from the produced water from corresponding disposal ponds. Most trace metal concentrations in the produced water increased from outfall to disposal pond except for Ba. In disposal ponds, Ba, As, and B concentrations increased from 2003 to 2005. Geochemical modeling predicted precipitation and dissolution reactions as controlling processes for Al, Cu, and Ba concentrations in CBNG produced water. Adsorption and desorption reactions appear to control As, Mo, and B concentrations in CBNG water in disposal ponds. Overall, results of this study will be important to determine beneficial uses (e.g., irrigation, livestock/wildlife water, and aquatic life) for CBNG produced water in the PRB, Wyoming.

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