Coalbed Methane Produced Water In The Western Us

(NRC) to examine the effects of CBM produced water on the environment in the western states of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and North Dakota. In its request, BLM asked the NRC (1) to review existing studies by federal agencies related to CBM produced water effects and management; (2) to generate an inventory of the federal and state data resources available for CBM produced water management; (3) to identify the major positive and negative effects of CBM produced water treatment, storage, disposal, and/or use on surface water and groundwater resources; (4) to review federal and state regulations for CBM produced water management; (5) to evaluate the effectiveness of current best management practices for the minimization of potential negative impacts to water resources; and (6) to discuss the costs for CBM produced water management. In response to this request, the committee of nine volunteer experts (see Appendix B) established by the NRC has developed this report, which is intended for Congress, BLM, and other federal, state, and tribal agencies, state organizations, the general public and public groups, and industry interested in increasing the effectiveness of CBM produced water management. This report organizes the discussion in the following way:

• The natural variables that affect produced water management, including the geological, hydrogeological, geochemical, and climatic factors specific to areas where western CBM production occurs (Chapter 2).

• The federal and state management and regulatory framework that has developed around CBM and produced water and determines what can and cannot be done to and with the produced water once it has emerged at the wellhead (Chapter 3).

• The range of management options, including water storage, treatment, disposal, and use, and positive and negative effects of CBM produced water that exist for the natural and constructed environments (Chapters 4 and 5).

• The technologies and costs to treat, store, dispose of, and/or use produced water (Chapter 6).

In its consideration of these factors, the committee has understood that technologies are available to treat water to any regulatory requirement or desired end use but that treatment costs and whether or not produced water is characterized as a waste or a potential beneficial use become decisive factors in which management options are employed, particularly in the arid West. These issues, as well as the report's conclusions and recommendations, are discussed in Chapter 7. Appendix C provides an overview of the presentations and meetings that served as some of the input to the committee's deliberations. Appendix D contains an inventory of the available federal and state data resources. Other references specific to individual chapters are cited at the close of each chapter.


CBM produced water management is a complex issue for public and private sectors. Water is an increasingly valuable resource in the western states and elsewhere, and the beneficial uses for CBM produced water may become a larger part of the dialogue regarding produced water management. Although the committee was asked specifically to address the issue of produced water from CBM basins in the western United States, the conclusions and recommendations of this report may have relevance to ongoing activities in other CBM basins in the nation and to produced water and water use issues, more broadly, associated with both renewable and fossil energy resource development.


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