Energy policy — oil and gas: Garfield County ‘Mamm Creek hydrological study’ update

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Known as the “Mamm Creek Hydrological Study,” the current investigation involves the use of a group of monitoring wells to determine the amount of “thermogenic” methane present at depths of 300-600 feet. “It’s not clear where the methane that we found came from,” said Judy Jordan, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, referring to thermogenic methane gas that had been detected in domestic water wells in past studies. The county is paying for the roughly $370,000 cost of the study.

Thermogenic hydrocarbons, including methane, typically are found much deeper than the reach of a normal domestic water well. The thermogenic compounds, which can be either liquid or gaseous, often appear as far as 8,000 feet below the surface, where they often are linked with deposits of natural gas and oil. Another type of methane, called “biogenic,” is found at much shallower depths and is related to the decomposition of organic material…

Jordan explained that GeoTrans recently completed the installation of six monitoring wells, at varying depths, in the Mamm Creek Basin, the same general region where previous consultants have taken samples from domestic water wells. Those domestic water wells, Jordan said, are typically much shallower, perhaps 300 feet deep or less, than the monitoring wells. And the domestic wells, she said, yielded only “chemical data” regarding what substances were present in the water. The monitoring wells are paired, with one well at a specific depth and a second well at a different depth. The data obtained by the pairs of wells, Jordan said, is meant to provide a three-dimensional profile of the movement of groundwater in the Wasatch Formation. The Wasatch Formation, Jordan said, lies between the earth’s surface and a depth of 2,000 feet, and is the source of most domestic drinking water supplies in Garfield County. By mapping the direction of movement in the groundwater flows, she said, experts can determine the direction contamination may be coming from.

According to Jordan, there are three possible sources of the methane — either it is seeping upward into groundwater reservoirs from formations deeper in the earth, using natural faults; it is from naturally occurring gas deposits within the Wasatch Formation; or it is migrating upward into the Wasatch Formation using faults linked to gas-drilling activities, perhaps even the well bores themselves.

Meanwhile the debate over disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing goes on. Here’s a report from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Forty-six members of Congress, including Colorado Democratic Reps. Jared Polis and Diana DeGette, sent a letter to former Colorado senator and current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Thursday backing the disclosure of secret chemicals used in the controversial natural gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Polis and DeGette, along with Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., co-sponsored the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act in 2009, only to see it languish in the overall gridlock over energy policy and climate-change legislation. Dubbed the “Haliburton Loophole” for the oil services company that perfected the process, fracking was granted an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act during the Bush-Cheney administration in 2005.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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