Here is what is on tap for Tuesday - 18 June.
You can search for the abstracts here. You can get authors' email addresses from the abstracts.
Another good day. Difficult to select which sessions to attend.
As many of you know, I am a sucker for transboundary (especially transnational) aquifers and regional hydrogeology. I got some of the latter yesterday, so today I opoted form the former.
Friend and colleague Gabriel Eckstein, transboundary groundwater guru who runs the International Water Law Project and its blog, started things off with an overview, Managing Hidden Treasures Across Frontiers: Emerging International Customary Norms for the Management of Transboundary Aquifer. He was kind enough to provide me with a PDF of his presentation:
He also made another presentation on a case study, Correlating Governance of Transboundary Freshwater Resources to Manageable Hydrologic Units on the Mexico-U.S. Border. His co-author is his father, hydrogeologist Yoram Eckstein, whom I've known longer than I've known his son. Here is their presentation:
Shaminder (Shammy) Puri gave an unscheduled presentation summarizing the ISARM - Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management - Program. He suggested that transboundary aquifers could be treated by examining existing basin agreements between countries and inserting provisions tailored to groundwater. I asked if it might be better to start from scratch, because groundwater and surface water behave differently and cannot always be treated similarly. He replied that such an approach might take 25 years - use what you have.
More very good case studies followed: 1) Milk River Aquifer (USA-Canada); 2) Buried Valley Aquifers along the Manitoba-North Dakota Border; 3) Canada/U.S. Transboundary Geological Maps of the Richelieu/Lake Champlain and Yamaska Basins; and 4) Issues and Approaches to Evaluating Shared Groundwater Resources on the Mexico-United States Border.
There were a number of sessions dealing with the oil sands but I was unable to make it to any. I did the next best thing: attended a session on Hydrogeological Issues Surrounding Shale Oil and Gas.
His team sought to answer two questions:
1) Does shale gas drilling and hydrofracking contaminate drinking water?
2) Does produced water disposal pose ecological and health risks?
His group has sampled 300 shallow private wells in eastern Pennsylvania and New York. They are now working in West Virginia. Vengosh reported on two different studies:
Study 1. They have found that wells under 1 kilometer from a shale gas well typically had higher methane (91 wells). This could be caused in two ways:
1) Escape of methane from depth into fracture systems and thence into shallow wells
2) Leakage through the installed casing of the fracking well (more likely)
Only methane was found; there were no dissolved constituents traceable to fracking operations.
Study 2. This involved more samples. Findings:
1) Hydrofracking seems to cause methane contamination.
2) No evidence for direct groundwater contamnation.
3) Possible connection between the Marcellus Shale and shallow wells in Pennsylvania.
4) Produced water discharged into surface water bodies poses risk.
For more information - publications, etc., visit these stites:
Richard E. Jackson then spoke on Monitoring Wells and Network Design for Shale-Gas Development Areas (this is a paper).
Jackson made a number of good points:
1) We need to bridge the gap between hydrogeologits and those working in the oil and gas industry.
2) Industry should be responsible for monitoring near-near field effects (impoundmnets, etc.).
3) Provinces (states) should monitor far-field effects (aquifers, etc.).
4) Any shallow water wells in areas of shale gas wells is a problematic situation vis-a-vis contamination.
5) Cement problems are generally related to the introduction of cement into annular areas and/or inadequate curing.
6) Western provinces are better at monitoring than eastern ones
Steve Wallace of Alberta Environment and Water then presented on Monitoring of Gases in Groundwater in Alberta. He noted that the network once had 400 wells but is now down to about 250 active ones. Groundwater quality monitoring started in 2006 because of concern over coalbed methane. About 150 wells have been sampled.
Bakken Water. The last talk I heard in this session was one by Robert Shaver of the North Dakota State Water Commission, Water Management Issues Associated with Bakken Oil Shale Development.
This was a fascinating discussion about one of the 'hottest' oil plays in North America (maybe the world) right now. Shaver estimated that there are about 2.1 billion barrels of recoverable oil and that 2,500 new wells will be drilled per year for the next 15-25 years. He said the immediate limitation on drilling right now is the shortage of crews.
Hydrofracking is used to obtain oil, not gas. About 2M gallons (7.6M liters) of water is needed for each well. On an annual basis, that is about 22,400 acre-feet (27.6 billion liters).
Except for the Missouri River/Lake Sakakawea, the surface water in the area is unreliable - few perennial streams. The regional bedrock Fox Hills aquifer (FHA) is available (wells produce up to 200 gallons per minute or 760 Lpm), but the state is limiting large withdrawals from the FHA because of its importance to ranchers and other rural users. Glacio-fluivial aquifers in the area can be productive - the Killdeer aquifer wells can produce up to 500 gpm (1900 Lpm) but the storage is not large and heavy pumping could induce intrusion of saline water from deeper aquifers.
Eighty-five permits for annual use have been issued so far: 73 for groundwater (11,519 acre-feet or 14.2 billion liters per year) and 12 for surface water (31,679 acre-feet or 39.1 billion liters). The state would like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from Lake Sakakawea (Missouri River) but the USACE has declined to issue permits since May 2010. The state and the Corps are presently negotiating.
Shaver noted that the average daily flow of the Missouri River past Bismarck, ND, is 40,658 acre-feet (50.1 billion liters), so one day's flow is about equal to total annual permitted water for current oil production.
Shaver concluded by noting:
1) The state is committed to not depleting aquifers.
2) More groundwater is available but it cannot be permitted fast enough.
3) More efficient distribution is needed, such as obtaining Missouri River water.
4) Aquifer storage and recovery may be an option for storing ephemeral streamflow.
They sure have their hands full up there!
Excellent day. Also sat in on a board meeting of the U.S. National Committee of the IAH. Lots of good things going on.
There will be no sessions on Wednesday, 19 June - a day reserved for field trips. I've got to do some work.
“If wells are constructed right and operated right, hydraulic fracturing will not cause a problem. - Scott Anderson, Senior Policy Advisor, Environmental Defense Fund
"Do Not Drink This Water." - Handwritten sign, Gasland