The goal of this project is to develop a GIS- (Geographic Information Systems) and web-based water resource geospatial infrastructure, which contains the basin baseline datasets for surface and groundwater, customized analytical toolsets, and user interfaces (UIs). The water resource geospatial infrastructure will provide water management solutions that will facilitate decision making, environmental impact studies (EIS), and cost estimation under different development scenarios for potential oil shale resource development in the Western U. S.
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401
The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019
Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID 83415-2107
USGS Energy Resources Program, Denver, CO 80228
Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545
USGS Colorado Water Science Center, Grand Junction, CO 81506
Abundant oil shale deposits are found throughout the midwestern and eastern United States; however, oil shale deposits in the Green River Formation in northwestern Colorado, southwestern Wyoming, and northeastern Utah are most likely to be developed because of their high oil content, accessibility, and extensive prior characterization.
The Green River oil shale deposits are located within the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes the Colorado River and its tributaries north of Lee’s Ferry, Arizona. Colorado River waters are critical resources in this semi-arid region, being used for municipal purposes, irrigated agriculture, industry and mining, energy development, and for maintaining recreational, scenic, and ecological value. Oil shale development has diverse impacts on water quality and quantity that must be addressed when developing this resource.
Development of western oil shale resources will require significant quantities of water for mine and plant operations, reclamation, and associated economic growth. A Department of Energy (DOE) report indicates that current estimates (based on updated oil shale industry water budgets for new retorting methods) will be one-to-three barrels of water per barrel of produced oil. For an oil shale industry producing 2.5 million barrels of oil per day (MMBOPD), this equates to between 105 and 315 million gallons of water per day (MGD).
These numbers include water requirements for power generation, in situ heating processes, retorting, refining, reclamation, dust control, and on-site worker demands. According to the DOE fact sheet report, municipal and other water requirements related to population growth and industry development will call for an additional 58 MGD. In areas where oil shale is available, particularly in the Western U.S., the water will be drawn from local and regional sources. The major water sources would be rivers, which currently support the water demands from municipal, industrial, and agricultural activities in addition to baseline environmental flows.
Water quantity, as well as water quality, issues such as carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint and the possibility of oil spills due to the large amounts of shale oil produced, processed, and transported need to be addressed. Stream temperature could also be altered due to warm wastewater discharge from power plants, by consuming cool water, or by lowering the ground water table. Toxic trace elements and organic chemicals from stack emissions from processing operations, chemicals used in upgrading and gas processing, leachates from raw and retorted shale, and associated industrial and municipal wastes are also a concern because of their potential impact on aquatic life and human health via drinking water supplies and irrigation.
These potential environmental impacts necessitate further study of water usage issues related to shale oil development. A basin-integrated baseline for surface and ground water data is the foundation of these studies. The study of water availability and environmental impact is a critical early step for the potential development of oil shale resources in the Western U.S.
One of the greatest challenges to advancing scientific discovery and industrial development is to efficiently collect and share data with the scientific community and general public. The development of a water resource geospatial database will create a repository for large volumes of water resource and oil shale data. This database will allow for collaborative regional basin assessments for future oil shale development. This type of collaboration provides the ideal atmosphere for the development of new, generically useful approaches for the use of technology and procedures that promote the best and most widespread use of our vast data holdings despite their disparate locations and heterogeneous formats. The database will enhance and standardize existing oil shale data by developing tools and graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to integrate previously dispersed and diverse datasets. The results of this research will provide a powerful tool to facilitate communication among industry, state, and federal regulators, and other stakeholders.
The project has ended. The final report is available below under "Additional Information".
Final Project Report [PDF-14.6MB]
Technology Status Assessment [PDF-44KB]
The Office of Technology Assessment Materials Program staff, An Assessment of Oil Shale Technology, Volume I, June 1980
Geology and Resources of Some World Oil-Shale Deposits (USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5294)
Draft OSTS PEIS, Appendix A: Oil Shale Development Background and Technology Overview (De¬cember 2007)
U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory 2007 Oil Shale Environmental Issues and Needs Workshop, October 18, 2007, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, March 2008.
Zhou, W.; Chen, G.; Li, H.; Luo, H.; Huang, S. L., GIS Application in Mineral Resource Analysis – A Case Study of Offshore Marine Placer Gold at Nome, Alaska, Computers and Geosciences, 33 (2007), pp. 773–788.