Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz’

WVU a Hotbed of Research Activity

Written by Janet Metzner, Legal Reporter, The Intelligencer on . Posted in Media, News

Which Fracking Water To Watch

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director, West Virginia Water Research Institute, says the general public often worries about the wrong water in the fracking process.

The water that becomes contaminated is what’s removed from the well, he explained, citing research from the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory. It’s located along the Monongahela River in Morgantown, and its researchers are focused on improving production of natural gas and oil.

The university launched the four-acre lab in 2014, as a partnership with Northeast Natural Energy, the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, and The Ohio State University, according to a June 26, 2015, article in “WVU Today” magazine.

Basically, it’s the water coming out of the well, called end-of-cycle water, that is contaminated, not the water going into the wells, Ziemkiewicz said. And the big issue is “what to do with the water coming out,” he said.

READ MORE

Researchers at KU, WVU to strengthen water-stewardship practices for U.S. energy production

Written by Tracy Novak, National Research Center for Coal and Energy on . Posted in News, Press Release

Every year in the U.S., a whopping 20 billion barrels of water are generated as a byproduct of domestic oil and gas recovery, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Safe and environmentally responsible management of this “produced water” is important to energy companies, farmers, ecosystems and everyday people whose drinking water comes from associated aquifers.

Now, a joint research effort founded by the University of Kansas and West Virginia University — funded by a new $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation — aims to develop cutting-edge strategies for better management, treatment, protection and recovery of produced water. The scientists behind the work hope to establish a permanent center focused on research-proven best practices for handling produced water nationwide.

“Obviously, we need energy,” said Edward Peltier, KU associate professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering, who is the primary investigator of the new project. “We use energy resources every day, and we’ll continue to use them. That means the better job we do producing energy in an efficient, clean manner — and not affecting other resources like water quality — the better off we are.”

Paul Ziemkiewicz, co-PI of the new grant and director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU, pointed out that until now there has been no nationally coordinated research effort to address issues tied to produced water.

“NSF’s support will create a national center for technology development as well as training and outreach to recruit a new generation of specialists to address this challenge,” he said.

All oil and gas production, whether by conventional or hydraulic fracturing methods, generates produced water. Its characteristics vary among the nation’s petroleum basins.

“It’s a combination of returned water injected into the ground as part of oil and gas recovery, as well as formation water, trapped inside the rock along with the petroleum — how much water comes out depends on the local geology. Kansas wells produce more water than oil,” Peltier said.

Ziemkiewicz added that Appalachian shale gas wells are net water consumers.

“So far, new well completions have absorbed most of our produced water, but as new completions decline, we need to find new ways to manage this water,” he said.

Across the country, this water has high salt content and other contaminants.

As a result, the researchers said there are issues with reusing water directly or discharging it on the surface. Currently, the leading form of disposal of produced water is reinjection into the subsurface. The practice has gained notoriety in some regions because of its association with earthquakes. Indeed, Kansas now puts regulatory curbs on deep-well re-injection of produced water.

The research under the new NSF grant will develop practices to improve the safety of deep-well injection and develop economical methods for treating produced water so that it can be reused.

“We want to come up with management and treatment techniques so we can reuse this water,” Peltier said. “It needs to be treated before it can be reused. This project is focused on ways to treat the water, to manage the production process so we have less wastewater to deal with and looking at the impact of water in ecosystems when it’s released. How much do we treat it so it doesn’t have harmful effects?”

Differences in the geology of plains Kansas and mountainous West Virginia mean the joint investigation into produced water at KU and WVU will have national application.

“We’ll initially focus on the central plains and Appalachian basins,” Peltier said. “We think there will broader applicability to the work we do that will apply to other petroleum basins.”

Moreover, the research assets of the partner institutions will complement each other. For instance, WVU operates the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Laboratory, a long-term field site supported by the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory. WVU researchers led by Ziemkiewicz are studying water used in hydraulic fracturing through the late stages of the produced water cycle.

Similarly, KU has field resources already established that will sustain the partnership.

“KU has the Tertiary Oil Recovery Program that has worked with oil producers in Kansas developing various recovery strategies and large-scale field tests,” Peltier said. “The goal here is both KU and WVU have overlap in energy and production and water treatment and protection. So we want to establish a long-term relationship, so even at end of this grant we’ll have additional cross-disciplinary and cross-university projects extending beyond the length of the grant.”

Students at both universities will benefit from new programs created by the grant, which the researchers said would help train a new generation of experts in sustainable oil and gas recovery practices.

“We’ll have undergraduate students cross-training each other’s universities and departments to strengthen research ties and match students with instructors at both schools, and we’ll have junior faculty going back and forth to establish partners they can work with in the lab, in the field and at the well in West Virginia,” said Peltier.

Programs involved in the new NSF grant include KU’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, Tertiary Oil Recovery Program and Department of Chemical & Petroleum Engineering. In addition to the Water Research Institute, the WVU team includes Lance Lin, civil and environmental engineering Harry Finklea, chemistry Joe Donovan, geology Todd Petty and Eric Merriam of wildlife and fisheries, and Shawn Grushecky of the Energy Land Management Program.

-WVU-

CONTACT: Tracy Novak, National Research Center for Coal and Energy
304.293.6928, Tracy.Novak@mail.wvu.edu

WVU researcher leads study identifying active reservoir management as a safer method for underground CO2 storage

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in News, Press Release

In a recently published study, a team of researchers identified a process for managing reservoir pressure that improves the safety of underground carbon storage.

The study team, led by Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University and researchers from the University of Wyoming, and Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories published their findings in the August 2016 issue of the International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control.

Efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion hinge on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) and permanently storing it. However, finding a permanent home for CO2 is not a simple matter. One option is to store the CO2 deep underground.

Underground storage of CO2 involves pressurizing it to the point where it becomes a liquid and forcing it into porous, deep geological rock formations like sandstone.

These formations have an overlying cap rock formation that will prevent seepage to the surface. Unfortunately, the pore spaces in these deep rock formations are invariably filled with saline water, or brine.

“Water is not very compressible,” said Ziemkiewicz. “If you try to inject carbon dioxide into the formation you need to do so under pressure and then it acts like a piston, transferring that pressurized water to the weakest part of the system. If that pressure is too high it will fracture the cap rock and the CO2 escapes.”

Without pressure management, the best outcome is that the carbon dioxide dissipates gradually through the target formation and remains where it belongs. However, that leaves a lot of uncertainty and restricts the rate at which carbon dioxide can be put into an injection well.

As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency has placed very stringent conditions on carbon storage wells. Regulated as class VI injection wells, the liabilities associated with them are essentially perpetual and few companies are willing to assume that level of financial risk.

Ziemkiewicz pointed out that the carbon storage issue is one of the major factors restricting the adoption of carbon capture technologies “but, if we can manage water in the target formation, we can manage pressure and ultimately, risk.”

In the study, the research team describes a process for controlling reservoir pressure by pumping brine from the target formation prior to carbon dioxide injection.

A single well is used to first withdraw brine then fill the de-watered voids with liquid carbon dioxide. That way, rather than using carbon dioxide to push water out of the way, which can cause unpredictable fracturing, it fills a prepared void and most of the formation’s porous spaces can be used for carbon storage.

This increases reservoir storage capacity and the CO2 never has a chance to build up excessive pressure and stays where it should. The produced brine can be treated for beneficial use.

Dr. Jeri Sullivan Graham, co-author from Los Alamos National Laboratory, points out that the extracted saline water may be a valuable resource if economical desalination can be achieved.

“The water from the formations that we studied in the Tianjin region is brackish-that is, relatively low in salinity. This means that desalination and reuse of the water in this very water-stressed region is highly feasible and could be a game-changer in terms of water resource augmentation.”

Once a zone around a well is filled with carbon dioxide, another well can be developed to repeat the cycle. By replacing withdrawn water with carbon dioxide, the pressure can be returned to the original level, preventing either cap rock fracture or subsidence.

“Another benefit of removing brine prior to storing CO2 is that this removal provides the well-field operators important information about the character of the target formation before any CO2 is stored, which reduces operational risk.” said Dr. Thomas Buscheck, co-author of the study and earth scientist with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

This concept of using multi-purpose wells for reservoir characterization, injection, and withdrawal may be useful in developing other types of underground injection wells where cap rock fracturing and induced seismicity is an issue.

The project was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center’s Advanced Coal Technology Consortium (ACTC). The study is now available online at http://www.journals.elsevier.com/international-journal-of-greenhouse-gas-control/.

-WVU-

as/08/29/2016

CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958, Paul.Ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu

Research at WVU Concludes Waste From Test Fracking Wells Safe to be on Highways

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News, Press Release

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Researchers at West Virginia University studied drilling wastes produced at two research wells near Morgantown and found they are well below federal guidelines for radioactive or hazardous waste.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU, will present these and other findings from the Marcellus Shale Energy and Environmental Laboratory, or MSEEL, today at the Appalachian Basin Technology Workshop in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Ziemkiewicz and his research team are studying the solid and liquid drilling wastes that are generated during shale gas development. These include drill cuttings, muds and produced water.

Drilling a horizontal well in the Marcellus Shale produces about 500 tons of rock fragments, known as cuttings. WVU researchers have been studying the radioactivity and toxicity of the drill cuttings, which are trucked on public roads to county landfills.

MSEEL scientists found that using the “green” drilling mud BioBase 365 at the well site resulted in all 12 cuttings samples passing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s test for leaching toxicity, allowing them to be classified as non-hazardous for non-radiological parameters like benzene and arsenic.

They determined that the drilling mud exerted a strong influence over the environmental risks associated with handling and disposing of drill cuttings.

Ziemkiewicz discussed the findings in the context of the West Virginia, Pennsylvania and federal standards for transportation and landfilling. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation classifies solid wastes exceeding 2,000 pico curies per gram (pCi/g) as low level radioactive waste requiring special permitting and handling.

“Radium is the dominant radioactive element in drilling wastes. In our study, the highest radium readings were below 10.8 pCi/g in the horizontal legs of the two production wells at the MSEEL site. Most were below 5 pCi/g,” says Ziemkiewicz. “The highest radium level in produced water found so far was 17 pCi/g. All of these are well below the U.S. Department of Transportation standard.”

Placing these materials in landfills, however, requires compliance with state landfilling regulations, which are based on exposure levels.

Ziemkiewicz’s team has also sampled the waste streams at the two production wells to identify changes in organic, inorganic and radiochemical composition over time. Among these findings, Ziemkiewicz noted that almost all contaminants increase through the production phase of an unconventional gas well while the volume of water drops rapidly. Toxic concentrations far exceed permissible levels for drinking water or discharge to streams. Most of this water is used for subsequent hydraulic fracturing operations. The remainder is disposed of under the states’ underground injection well programs.

When the production wells were completed in early December 2015, about 50 gallons of produced water came out of the wells each minute. Within a week that dropped to four gallons per minute, and it is currently one third of a gallon per minute or 460 gallons per day.

The MSEEL project is led by West Virginia University and the Ohio State University in partnership with Northeast Natural Energy, Schlumberger and the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy. It is the first-ever long-term, comprehensive field study of shale gas resources in which scientists will study the process from beginning-to-end.

The project site consists of an intensively instrumented science well and two shale gas production wells where researchers from WVU, Ohio State, the U.S. Geological Survey, USDOE and several other universities are studying what happens during and after hydraulic fracturing. The five-year MSEEL project includes engineers, ecologists, public health professionals, social scientists and more. The comprehensive studies include monitoring of baseline air, noise, light and water, as well as collecting of geological, environmental and other data.

“This has not been done in a publicly funded study before,” said Ziemkiewicz.

-WVU-

CONTACT: Paul Ziemkiewicz; West Virginia Water Research Institute
304.293.6958; Paul.Ziemkiewicz@mail.wvu.edu