Raton Basin Earthquakes Linked to Oil and Gas Fluid Injections — @CIRESnews

Raton Basin map via the USGS.

Here’s the release from CIRES (Jim Scott):

A rash of earthquakes in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico recorded between 2008 and 2010 was likely due to fluids pumped deep underground during oil and gas wastewater disposal, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

The study, which took place in the 2,200-square-mile Raton Basin along the central Colorado-northern New Mexico border, found more than 1,800 earthquakes up to magnitude 4.3 during that period, linking most to wastewater injection well activity. Such wells are used to pump water back in the ground after it has been extracted during the collection of methane gas from subterranean coal beds.

One key piece of the new study was the use of hydrogeological modeling of pore pressure in what is called the “basement rock” of the Raton Basin – rock several miles deep that underlies the oldest stratified layers. Pore pressure is the fluid pressure within rock fractures and rock pores.

While two previous studies have linked earthquakes in the Raton Basin to wastewater injection wells, this is the first to show that elevated pore pressures deep underground are well above earthquake-triggering thresholds, said CU Boulder doctoral student Jenny Nakai, lead study author. The northern edges of the Raton Basin border Trinidad, Colorado, and Raton, New Mexico.

“We have shown for the first time a plausible causative mechanism for these earthquakes,” said Nakai of the Department of Geological Sciences. “The spatial patterns of seismicity we observed are reflected in the distribution of wastewater injection and our modeled pore pressure change.”

A paper on the study was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. Co-authors on the study include CU Boulder Professors Anne Sheehan and Shemin Ge of geological sciences, former CU Boulder doctoral student Matthew Weingarten, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, and Professor Susan Bilek of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.

The Raton Basin earthquakes between 2008 and 2010 were measured by the seismometers from the EarthScope USArray Transportable Array, a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to measure earthquakes and map Earth’s interior across the country. The team also used seismic data from the Colorado Rockies Experiment and Seismic Transects (CREST), also funded by NSF.

As part of the research, the team simulated in 3-D a 12-mile long fault gleaned from seismicity data in the Vermejo Park region in the Raton Basin. The seismicity patterns also suggest a second, smaller fault in the Raton Basin that was active from 2008-2010.

Nakai said the research team did not look at the relationship between the Raton Basin earthquakes and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The new study also showed the number of earthquakes in the Raton Basin correlates with the cumulative volume of wastewater injected in wells up to about 9 miles away from the individual earthquakes. There are 28 “Class II” wastewater disposal wells – wells that are used to dispose of waste fluids associated with oil and natural gas production – in the Raton Basin, and at least 200 million barrels of wastewater have been injected underground there by the oil and gas industry since 1994.

“Basement rock is typically more brittle and fractured than the rock layers above it,” said Sheehan, also a fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. “When pore pressure increases in basement rock, it can cause earthquakes.”

There is still a lot to learn about the Raton Basin earthquakes, said the CU Boulder researchers. While the oil and gas industry has monitored seismic activity with seismometers in the Raton Basin for years and mapped some sub-surface faults, such data are not made available to researchers or the public.

The earthquake patterns in the Raton Basin are similar to other U.S. regions that have shown “induced seismicity” likely caused by wastewater injection wells, said Nakai. Previous studies involving CU Boulder showed that injection wells likely caused earthquakes near Greeley, Colorado, in Oklahoma and in the mid-continent region of the United States in recent years.

@USGS: Water-level and recoverable water in storage changes, High Plains aquifer, predevelopment to 2015 and 2013–15

Click here to read the report. Here’s the release from the US Geological Survey:

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new report detailing changes of groundwater levels in the High Plains aquifer. The report presents water-level change data in the aquifer for two separate periods: from 1950 – the time prior to significant groundwater irrigation development – to 2015, and from 2013 to 2015.

“Change in storage for the 2013 to 2015 comparison period was a decline of 10.7 million acre-feet, which is about 30 percent of the change in recoverable water in storage calculated for the 2011 to 2013 comparison period,” said Virginia McGuire, USGS scientist and lead author of the study. “The smaller decline for the 2013 to 2015 comparison period is likely related to reduced groundwater pumping.”

In 2015, total recoverable water in storage in the aquifer was about 2.91 billion acre-feet, which is an overall decline of about 273.2 million acre-feet, or 9 percent, since predevelopment. Average area-weighted water-level change in the aquifer was a decline of 15.8 feet from predevelopment to 2015 and a decline of 0.6 feet from 2013 to 2015.

The USGS study used water-level measurements from 3,164 wells for predevelopment to 2015 and 7,524 wells for the 2013 to 2015 study period.

The High Plains aquifer, also known as the Ogallala aquifer, underlies about 112 million acres, or 175,000 square miles, in parts of eight states, including: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. The USGS, at the request of the U.S. Congress and in cooperation with numerous state, local, and federal entities, has published reports on water-level changes in the High Plains aquifer since 1988 in response to substantial water-level declines in large areas of the aquifer.

“This multi-state, groundwater-level monitoring study tracks water-level changes in wells screened in the High Plains aquifer and located in all eight states that overlie the aquifer. The study has provided data critical to evaluating different options for groundwater management,” said McGuire. “This level of coordinated groundwater-level monitoring is unique among major, multi-state regional aquifers in the country.”

@USGS: Landsat live

Screen shot of the LandSat live feed June 3, 2017 over Russia.

Click here to go to the website:

Watch Landsat LIVE!

A recent release of the EarthNow! Landsat Image Viewer displays imagery in near real-time as Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 orbit the Earth. Along with the near real-time video stream, EarthNow! also replays acquisition recordings from a list of previous Landsat overpasses. When Landsat 7 or Landsat 8 are out of viewing range of a ground station, the most recent overpass is displayed. EarthNow! can also display current satellite positions and footprints.

EarthNow! is based on the FarEarth Global Observer tool (developed by Pinkmatter Solutions) to help visualize incoming data for Landsat’s International Ground Stations, including the USGS-acquired imagery shown on EarthNow!.

@USGS Monthly Groundwater News and Highlights: May 1, 2017

Click here to read the news. Here’s an excerpt:

A new USGS assessment suggests that brackish groundwater could help stretch limited freshwater supplies. The amount of fresh or potable groundwater in storage has declined for many areas in the United States and has led to concerns about the future availability of water for drinking-water, agricultural, industrial, and environmental needs. Use of brackish groundwater could supplement or, in some places, replace the use of freshwater sources and enhance our Nation’s water security.

@USGS: National Hydrography Dataset / Watershed Boundary Dataset Map Service Improvement

Here’s the release from the USGS:

As part of an ongoing effort to improve the suite of hydrography web-based map services, the USGS will separate the services for the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD).
Currently, the NHD dynamic service, “Hydrography (inc. watersheds)” includes both NHD and WBD layers. The existing address will be updated to include only NHD layers, and a new endpoint will be designated for WBD services.

The NHD and WBD represent inland waters for the U.S. as a part of The National Map. The NHD represents the drainage network with features such as rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, coastline, dams, and streamgages. The WBD represents drainage basins as enclosed areas in eight different size categories.

Focusing these services to two endpoints enables the USGS to isolate changes and issues, and continue to improve the performance of each set of services independently. When complete, users will have the choice to consume the services of NHD or WBD independently. Accessing the WBD services will not require users to consume the additional NHD layers, and accessing NHD services will not require users to have to consume the additional WBD layers. Separating the services and increasing resources available has improved performance.

This change will impact applications presently consuming the combined NHD and WBD layers from the existing service address. Once this is implemented, users who would like to consume the WBD dynamic services will need to use the new service endpoint. In addition, users currently consuming the combined service may need to update application configurations for display of the desired layers.

Additionally, two NHD/WBD-related web services are being retired at the end of April. See the summary below for more information.

An announcement will be posted in the “What’s New” section on the The National Map website once changes are implemented.

Summary of changes to National Map Hydrography service endpoints

New – Hydrography data service endpoints:

1. National Hydrography Dataset

  • Function: Provides national hydrography data
  • Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/nhd/MapServer
  • This NHD endpoint remains the same, the WBD layers have been removed.
  • 2. National Watershed Boundary Dataset

  • Function: Provides watershed boundary data
  • Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/wbd/MapServer
  • 3. Hydrography (cached)

  • Function: Provides a fast USGS Topo styled hydrography overlay
  • Endpoint: https://basemap.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroCached/MapServer
  • This service was announced and made public March 2017 and is also available as a WMTS service.
  • Retiring at the end of April 2017

  • NHD Base Map (former primary tile cache)
  • Function: Cached base map of hillshade, NHD and WBD combined
  • Endpoint: https://basemap.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroNHD/MapServer
  • USGS NHD Base Map – Below 18K Scale Dynamic

  • Function: Dynamic map service used below 18K to work along with older NHD Base Map cache. This also contains hillshade, NHD and WBD combined
  • Endpoint: https://services.nationalmap.gov/arcgis/rest/services/USGSHydroNHDLarge/MapServer
  • For any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this update, please contact Ariel Doumbouya (atdoumbouya@usgs.gov).

    Webcast: Stormwater Contaminants of Emerging Concern — @theCWPInc

    Emerging contaminant transport. Graphic via the USGS.

    Click here to register for the webcast from The Center for Watershed Protection. Here’s their pitch:

    Newly recognized contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) include a broad list of synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals (e.g., pharmaceuticals, synthetic fragrances, detergents, disinfectants, plasticizers, preservatives) or any microorganisms that have the potential to cause adverse ecological and(or) human health effects. Advances in our ability to detect and study CECs in the environment have shown that they are widespread throughout the aquatic ecosystem, and some studies are showing adverse impacts to aquatic organisms and public health. While a major source of CECs is POWT discharges, illicit discharges containing sewage into the municipal separate sewer system is a major pathway for CECs to be delivered to urban and suburban stream systems. Illicit discharge detection and elimination (IDDE) systems have the potential to be effective tools to mitigate the effect of CECs on the environment. This webcast focuses on CECs and the potential for IDDE programs to reduce their impacts.

    @USGS: Assessment of Moderate- and High-Temperature Geothermal Resources of the United States

    Map showing the location of identified moderate-temperature and high-temperature geothermal systems in the United States. Each system is represented by a black dot. Credit USGS.
    Map showing the location of identified moderate-temperature and high-temperature geothermal systems in the United States. Each system is represented by a black dot. Credit USGS.

    Here’s the release from the USGS:

    Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently completed an assessment of our Nation’s geothermal resources. Geothermal power plants are currently operating in six states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. The assessment indicates that the electric power generation potential from identified geothermal systems is 9,057 Megawatts-electric (MWe), distributed over 13 states. The mean estimated power production potential from undiscovered geothermal resources is 30,033 MWe. Additionally, another estimated 517,800 MWe could be generated through implementation of technology for creating geothermal reservoirs in regions characterized by high temperature, but low permeability, rock formations.