Posts Tagged ‘water’

WVU Researcher Recognized for Work in Land Reclamation

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

Morgantown, W.Va. — The American Society of Mining and Reclamation awarded its 2017 Pioneers in Reclamation Award to Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, for his significant impact to and advancement of the art and science of land reclamation over his career.

“The role of science is to make the world a better and safer place,” said Ziemkiewicz.

Making the world a better place is exactly what Ziemkiewicz has done over his 39 year career. It began with his training at Utah State University, where he graduated with a B.S. degree in biology. He then earned his M.S. in range ecology at Utah State University and his Ph.D. in forest ecology at the University of British Columbia.

In 1978, Ziemkiewicz became the director of the reclamation research program for Alberta Energy. While there, he developed a land use based mine reclamation strategy that was adopted by the Alberta Government.

In 1988, he moved to West Virginia to serve as director of the National Mine Land Reclamation Center at West Virginia University where he worked to address environmental impacts from historic coal mining. He has served as director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute since 1991. In this role he has worked to promote and implement scientifically sound strategies that prevent pollution from active mining.

In 1995, his research led the Federal Clean Streams Initiative to restore hundreds of miles of streams rendered lifeless by mining prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. As a result, West Virginia’s Cheat River, Maryland’s North Branch of the Potomac, Pennsylvania’s Conemaugh River and Kentucky’s Rock Creek are valuable fisheries.

Ziemkiewicz led the formulation of U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s acid mine drainage (AMD) policy in 1997. He received the 2005 Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration. Ziemkiewicz has also contributed his expertise to agencies and companies in India, China, Poland, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa.

With funding from Colcom Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey, he launched 3 Rivers QUEST, a program to protect and improve water quality in the Upper Ohio River Basin in 2009. The program monitors the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers and their major tributaries.

In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection declared 62 miles of the Monongahela River “impaired” for potable water use due to high salt content. The 3RQ program identified unregulated sulfates from coal mine water treatment facilities during low stream flow as the source of the problem. After meeting with industry representatives, he developed a computer model that adjusted treated discharge rates to river flow, thus maintaining salt levels well below drinking water standards. The industry voluntarily embraced the model and have used it since. As a result, after five years of 3RQ monitoring, PADEP and EPA declared the river no longer impaired.

When asked why he chose to focus on land reclamation and energy issues, he discussed growing up in western Pennsylvania in the 1950’s before any laws in reclamation existed. This gave him first-hand awareness of the need for technology and laws for reclamation. Receiving the 2017 Pioneers in Reclamation Award is extremely important to Ziemkiewicz.

“It is very gratifying to have recognition from my peers. ASMR is the original and internationally recognized organization for land restoration and I have an enormous respect for them.”

Other awards received by Ziemkiewicz include the 1985 E.M. Watkin Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Betterment of Land Reclamation from the Canadian Land Reclamation Association and the 2005 Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.

Ziemkiewicz said he feels that his flexibility and ability to change focus have been most influential. Next in his career, he hopes to focus on cleaning up acid mine drainage and watersheds and grow fisheries on former mines by using the same technology that turned Cheat Lake into a first-class fishery.

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WVWRI to co-host regional water conference; announces Call for Abstracts

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, Events, News

The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University is accepting abstracts through March 27 for the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Water Resources Conference.

The event will be held October 12-13, 2017 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va. “Water Research: Building Knowledge and Innovative Solutions” is the theme for this regional conference.

Researchers from colleges and universities, state and federal agencies, private organizations, consulting firms, industry and students are invited to submit abstracts for consideration for oral and poster presentations.

Abstracts for basic and applied research papers are being solicited in all areas related to water resources including infrastructure, energy, monitoring, policy, supply, technology, water quality and others.

The conference combines exceptional educational programs with opportunities for researchers, policy makers, state and federal agencies, environmental consultants, private organizations and the public to share in the latest information, technologies and research relating to water resources in the Mid-Atlantic.

“Water science, unlike many fields, involves a wide range of disciplines including law, engineering, social sciences, policy, economics, chemistry and biology,” said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute.

“This conference is a great opportunity to bring practitioners together to build the knowledge base needed to effectively manage our most precious resource.”

The event is being hosted by the West Virginia Water Research Institute, University of Delaware Water Resources Center, Pennsylvania Center for Water Resources Research at Pennsylvania State University, and the Virginia Water Resources Research Center at Virginia Tech.

For more information about the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Water Resources Conference, including abstract submission details, please visit www.midatlanticwrc.org.

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

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