Coalbed Methane Produced Water In The Western Us

source for livestock. ALL Consulting (2003) describes an example from the 7 Ranch near Gillette, Wyoming, where livestock are watered from small reservoirs and old heavy-vehicle tires are used as watering tanks. Ancillary benefits of the use of CBM produced water for livestock include enhanced forage production and use by wildlife and waterfowl.

Instream Flow and wetland Augmentation

A possible ancillary benefit of discharging CBM produced water to streams is enhancement of instream flow. As discussed in Chapter 3, instream flow is considered a beneficial use in most western states, and release of CBM produced water to streams, if the quality meets surface water and aquatic life standards, can enhance aquatic environments and increase riparian vegetation, providing habitat for birds and other wildlife. An additional ancillary benefit of instream flow augmentation is increased flow to downstream water users. Discharge of CBM waters to wetlands may also enhance these environments and provide ancillary benefits to waterfowl and wildlife if the water quality meets surface water and aquatic life standards. At present, the only areas where this type of CBM produced water benefit might be realized to any degree are the Powder River Basin and the Colorado portion of the Raton Basin. The committee found no referenced evidence that produced water is being managed specifically to achieve these benefits at this time.

Industrial and Municipal use opportunities for Produced water

Although constrained by available infrastructure, transportation costs, and costs of treating water, CBM produced water is also a candidate for beneficial or supplemental use in a number of industrial and municipal applications (see Table 4.3). Such industries and municipalities would likely need to be located near methane- and water-producing areas, to assure minimal costs for transporting water. Currently, no CBM produced water in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming is used for municipal or industrial activities other than for dust control at nearby coal mines and on rural graveled roads. The committee is aware of only a few cases in which produced water from any oil and gas activity—not CBM produced water—was used for potable supplies (Stewart, 2006; Stewart and Takichi, 2007; see Box 4.2). As mentioned previously, a small amount of CBM produced water in Montana is used for industrial dust control (Box 4.1).


Putting CBM produced water to beneficial use requires an understanding of both quantity and quality issues. Some CBM produced water, for example from the Powder River Basin and some parts of the Colorado portion of the Raton Basin, is suitable for livestock

TABLE 4.3 Summary of Industry and Municipal Beneficial Use Options for CBM Produced Water in the Western United States.


Beneficial Uses

Treatment That May Be Necessary

Coal mining/mineral extraction

Dust control, fire control and suppression, materials transport, mineral processing support, restoration/ reclamation


Livestock production/feedlots

Livestock watering, cleaning, management of animal wastes


Industrial cooling towers: coal- and gas-fired electric generation

Facilities cooling

TDS, carbonate, bicarbonate reduction, pH adjustment

Vehicle and equipment cleaning and washing facilities

Vehicle washing (weed control)


Oil and gas exploration and extraction

Facilitating drilling, waterflooding, secondary recovery, equipment cleaning



Fish production/rearing areas

Managed TDS and constituents, temperature


Fire control/protection



Augmentation of municipal potable water supplies

Treatment to regulated standards

aWhether treatment is necessary is dependent upon the intended use and water quality required for the use. Presently, for example, treatment of water designated for reclamation/restoration of mined lands or for livestock is not necessary if the quality of the water meets requirements for the desired purpose. In the case of industrial uses and ancillary uses or benefits of CBM produced water, the use of the water is totally elective and any treatment that is imposed is for the purpose of facilitating the use or functionality of the water, but would not be a regulatory requirement.

NOTE: The table information indicates opportunities for major industry uses but is not a comprehensive presentation of all possible industrial uses for CBM produced water. Lack of accessibility to and sustain-ability of water supplies for the indicated potential use may limit opportunity for beneficial use.

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