Oil & Natural Gas Projects
Exploration and Production Technologies
Help Resolve Issues that Affect Access to Federal Lands for Oil and Gas
This project was selected as part of an Interagency Agreement through a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) between DOE and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Federal
Lands Technical Partnership. Project Goal Four specific tasks have been chosen
to further the goal of public access to oil and gas development on Federal Lands:
1) 3M mapping, modeling and monitoring of the northern San Juan Basin, CO, 2)
Assessment of brine impact on aquifers in Seminole County, OK, 3) Coalbed methane
(CBM) water quality monitoring in WY, 4) Study effects of oil and gas development
on sage grouse, mule deer and pronghorn (WY).
Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior
Field offices: Durango, CO; Tulsa, OK; Casper, WY; Cheyenne, WY
The 3M study provided validation of field data necessary to design a well monitoring
program for the San Juan Basin. The study demonstrated that methane seepage
along outcrops will increase with further coalbed methane development in the
San Juan Basin. In Seminole County, OK brine leakage from oil field operations
dating back to 1900 have been mapped.
The water quality monitoring project in the Powder River Basin established guidelines
and methodology for future monitoring of CBM produced water flow and infiltration
into the subsurface.
The Sage Grouse study in western WY is a critical issue. Sage grouse populations
were evaluated for possible inclusion on the Endangered Species list. Data provided
by this project will assist Federal Agencies in making that determination.
The studies have provided models, and data critical to support land use decisions
for Federal Agencies, County and State planners in four western states (Colorado,
New Mexico, Oklahoma and Wyoming). Data gathering and research on CBM, abandoned
oilfield sites and animal populations provide valuable scientific evidence on
past and potential future effects of oil and gas development on water quality,
soil remediation and habitat disturbance. The information is used to inform
the public of scientific facts concerning specific topics, which have generated
controversy and/or misinformation from private groups or individuals.
BLM and DOE are working together to protect the environment while supporting
the goal of increasing domestic oil and gas production. As the primary manager
of Federal Lands, BLM has the responsibility to balance the many public uses
of the land, including oil and gas production, with environmental protection.
Because of the need to protect varying interests, a cumbersome system of stipulations
and permitting requirements has evolved that effectively limit oil and gas development.
Many of these stipulations, however are based on historical industry practices
and do not consider current or new innovative industry capabilities to minimize
disturbance, protect the environment, and to minimize aesthetic impacts. Other
restrictions result from assumptions about environmental protection standards
and/or pollution from oil and gas activities that have never been verified by
research. The four tasks of the BLM/DOE interagency agreement are aimed at helping
resolve issues that affect access to Federal Lands for oil and gas operations.
The 3M project in the San Juan Basin has assessed the methane seepage impact
related to the closer spacing of Fruitland CBM wells from 320-acre spacing to
160-acre spacing. The research on the potential methane seepage at the outcrop
is the first to quantify the seepage rates and tie them to production activities
in the basin.
- Fruitland outcrops in the Colorado portion of the San Juan Basin were mapped
to define pre-development conditions.
- Four monitoring well clusters were sited and installed to monitor water
level changes associated with CBM development.
- The analysis indicates that methane seepage will increase at rates of 4
to 20 times if the proposed well-spacing change was made.
- The reason for this increase methane loss at the surface is the reduction
in water pressures within the coalbeds which result from CBM development.
- A hydraulic interconnection between the down-dip producing Fruitland coalbeds
and the outcrops has been demonstrated.
- Industry has expressed interest in recovering the methane that is lost to
the atmosphere at the outcrop.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used data from the project to
develop the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the San Juan Basin.
The project in Seminole County, OK investigated the effect of brine leakage
from historic oil field sites and the continued affects of aquifer quality.
The work performed by the University of Tulsa used Global Positioning Satellite
technology to analyze the spatial relationship of water samples to oil and
- Data was collected to develop a gradient flow model for aquifers.
- A model was developed to show the distance, depth of penetration and long
term effects and/or cleansing of brines passing through soils into aquifers.
- The maps and water probe analysis were used to identify areas for remediation.
The increase in CBM development since the early 1990s has led to public outcry
concerning potential effects on water quality. The primary objectives of the
monitoring effort were to insure that the completion procedures used on CBM
production wells were adequate to minimize inter-aquifer communication and
protect the water quality and availability in aquifers adjacent to the methane
- CBM wells in the Powder River Basin were found to yield an average of 10
gallons of water per minute.
- Equipment was designed and installed in four water monitoring wells to test
for contaminants, evaluate cement integrity, and evaluate communication between
- The equipment is solar powered to allow minimum maintenance and long-term
collection of data.
The study of wildlife populations and habitats in western Wyoming concentrated
on sage grouse breeding and nesting sites near Pinedale in Jonah Field, a
large recently-developed natural gas field.
- The study looked at the size of breeding areas and the impact of oil field
activities including noise, lights and human foot and vehicular traffic on
sage grouse populations.
- Regulation of the areas by establishing areas to be avoided, seasonal use,
reduction of roads and restricted hunting have been shown to benefit sage
grouse population numbers.
- BLM is adopting best management practices based on scientific research for
managing both wildlife and access to fluid minerals on federal lands
Current Status (August 2004) The majority of the tasks and subtasks in the
project have been completed. Final analysis and reports are still in progress
for the Sage Grouse study. The sage grouse are currently being evaluated by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for possible inclusion on the Endangered
Species list. The DOE study results may provide data to show that oil and
gas activities have not significantly harmed the species, and that the species
does not merit the restrictive protection of Endangered Species status. The
Western Governor's Association has requested FWS to hold off its decision
until the sage grouse study has been reviewed.
Project Start: September 1, 2000
Project End: October 30, 2004
Anticipated DOE Contribution: $335,000
Performer Contribution: $150,000 (39% of total)
Other Government Organizations
Involved Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior
NETL - David Alleman (email@example.com or 918-699-2057)
BLM - Tom Hewitt (firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-452-0378)
Fruitland formation coalbed in roadcut. Note dead trees on top of coalbed. This
is an effect of nearby coalbed methane wells dewatering the coalbeds near the
outcrop area and increasing the methane seepage at the outcrop.
Water quality monitoring equipment.
Sage grouse strutting on lek during the breeding season, Pinedale Anticline,
Sublette County, WY.