The Groundwater Project

Groundwater and Petroleum

Book Cover for Groundwater and Petroleum
Publication year: 2023
Number of pages: 375

ISBN: 978‑1‑77470‑041‑9


Yousif Kharaka: United States Geological Survey, USA
Brian HitchonHitchon Geochemical Services Ltd, Canada
Jeffrey Hanor: Louisiana State University, USA

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Last Update: 27 January 2024
Released: 18 August 2023​


Most nonexperts do not realize that for every barrel of oil produced today in the USA, oil companies also recover approximately ten barrels of produced water that is highly toxic to human health and the environment. Produced water is toxic because of high salinity and high concentrations of inorganic and organic chemicals and isotopes that far exceed the water quality criteria for drinking and irrigation waters. Approximately 60 percent of produced water is currently reinjected into oil production zones for enhanced recovery.

Since 1859, when the first commercial oil well–Drake’s well–was drilled in Pennsylvania, it has proven a great challenge to manage this wastewater without contaminating soil, vegetation, surface water, groundwater, and ecosystems. To address this challenge requires an enhanced knowledge and understanding of the origin and chemical evolution of groundwater and produced water. In response, the authors knit together this extensive body of knowledge for the first time with an extensive literature review and detailed discussion about the relevant processes using examples from sedimentary basins in North America

Case studies of field sites with groundwater contaminated by petroleum operations in active oil fields and legacy sites illustrate these processes and their underlying principles. The authors then lead the reader to examine global warming and its mitigation by carbon capture, utilization, and geological storage (CCUS). In doing so, the authors provide the reader with a clear picture of the connections between water, petroleum, and the environment, and the significance of this connectedness for the health of humanity and ecosystems.

The book is oriented toward graduate students, research geochemists, environmentalists, and regulators interested in understanding the environmental issues and geochemistry of subsurface water in contexts ranging from shallow groundwater to deep oil field brines.

Interview with Authors


1 Introduction

1.1 Topics Discussed in this Book

1.2 Exercises Pertinent to Section 1

2 A Brief History of the Petroleum Industry

2.1 Introduction to History of the Petroleum Industry

2.2 Modern Petroleum Industry

2.3 2021 UN Climate Change Summit: COP26, Glasgow, Scotland

2.4 Exercises Pertinent to Section 2

3 Drilling, Completion, and Fluid Production from Petroleum Wells

3.1 Introduction to Drilling, Completion and Production

3.2 Well Drilling

3.3 Well Completion

3.4 Petroleum Production

3.5 Well Abandonment

4 Produced Water from Conventional Petroleum Sources of Energy

4.1 Introduction to Water from Conventional Sources

4.2 Historical Perspective on the Volume and Management of Produced Water

4.3 Environmental Quality Regulations

4.4 Irrigation Water Quality Criteria

4.4.1 Salinity Hazard
4.4.2 Sodium Hazard
4.4.3 pH and Alkalinity
4.4.4 Specific Ion Toxicity

4.5 Government Regulations to Protect Groundwater

4.6 Exercises Pertinent to Section 4

5 Fluid Production from Unconventional Sources of Energy

5.1 Introduction to Water from Unconventional Sources

5.2 Volume and Composition of Fracturing Fluids

5.3 Flowback Water

5.4 Permian Basin: Water Challenges for Unconventional Production

5.5 Environmental Impacts: Water Use and Waste Water Disposal Challenges

5.6 Oil Sands

5.6.1 Water Management

5.7 Exercises Pertinent to Section 5

6 Inorganic Chemical Composition of Produced Water

6.1 Introduction to Inorganic Composition of Produced Water

6.2 Field and Laboratory Methods and Procedures

6.3 Produced Water from Gas Wells

6.4 Information from Wire line Logs

6.5 Geochemical Data from the Same Formation Using Four Sampling Methods

6.5.1 Results and Discussion

6.6 Inorganic Chemical Composition of Produced Water: A Basin and Country Scale Perspective

6.6.1 Culling Criteria for Standard Formation Water
6.6.2 Statistical Classification of Elements in Produced Water
6.6.3 Salinity
6.6.4 Major Elements
6.6.5 Minor Elements
6.6.6 Trace Elements
6.6.7 Mineral Saturation Indices

6.7 Inorganic Chemical Composition of Produced Water: A Field Scale Perspective

6.7.1 Water Salinity
6.7.2 Cations in Produced Water
6.7.3 Control of Cation Concentrations
6.7.4 Chemical Geothermometry and Barometry
6.7.5 Major Anions in Produced Water
6.7.6 Metal Rich Brine
6.7.7 Geochemical Modeling of Ore Fluids

6.8 The Influence of Shale and Other Geologic Membranes

6.9 Secular Variations in Seawater Chemistry: Impact on Composition of Basinal Brine

6.10 Exercises Pertinent to Section 6

7 Organic Compounds in Produced Water

7.1 Introduction to Organic Composition

7.2 Monocarboxylic Acid Anions

7.3 Dicarboxylic Acid Anions

7.4 Other Reactive Organic Species

7.5 Origin of Major Reactive Organic Species

7.6 Toxicity of Produced Water and Crude Oil Releases

7.6.1 Toxicity Resulting from Crude Oil and Organic Chemicals
7.6.2 Toxicity Resulting from Inorganic Chemicals

7.7 Exercises Pertinent to Section 7

8 Isotopic Composition of Produced Water

8.1 Introduction to Isotopic Composition

8.2 Water Isotopes

8.2.1 Formation Water Derived from Holocene Meteoric Water
8.2.2 Formation Water Originating from “Old” Meteoric Water
8.2.3 Formation Water of Connate Marine Origin
8.2.4 Bittern Connate Water Associated with Evaporites
8.2.5 Brine of Mixed Origin

8.3 Isotopic Composition of Solutes

8.3.1 Boron Isotopes
8.3.2 Lithium Isotopes
8.3.3 Carbon Isotopes
8.3.4 Sulfur Isotopes
8.3.5 Chlorine Isotopes
8.3.6 Bromine Isotopes
8.3.7 Strontium Isotopes
8.3.8 Calcium Isotopes

8.4 Traditional and Nontraditional Isotopes

8.5 Radioactive Isotopes and Age Dating

8.6 Exercises Pertinent to Section 8

9 Geochemistry of Produced Water in Basins with Salt Domes

9.1 Introduction to Water Geochemistry near Salt Domes

9.2 Geologic Setting of the Gulf of Mexico Basin

9.3 Chemical Composition of Water Associated with Salt Domes

9.3.1 Salt, Salinity, and Hydrogeology
9.3.2 Salt Dissolution: Bay Marchand Salt Dome
9.3.3 Salt Dissolution: Welsh Salt Dome
9.3.4 Regional Variations in Salinity

9.4 Geochemical Composition of Gulf of Mexico Formation Water

9.4.1 Chemical Composition of Formation Water at Individual Salt Structures
9.4.2 Effect of Salt Dissolution on Groundwater Resources

9.5 Exercises Pertinent to Section 9

10 Field Studies of Groundwater Contamination by Produced Water and Petroleum

10.1 Case Study 1: Groundwater Contamination by a Crude Oil Spill

10.1.1 Remediation at the Bemidji Site
10.1.2 Results and Discussion

10.2 Case Study 2: Groundwater Contamination by Produced Water and Petroleum at Osage Sites, Oklahoma

10.2.1 Introduction
10.2.2 Site Investigations
10.2.3 Case Study 2A: Groundwater Contamination at an Active Oil Field
10.2.4 Case Study 2B: Groundwater Contamination at a Legacy Site

10.3 Case Study 3: Potential Effects of Cation Exchange on the Composition and Mobility of Produced Water

10.3.1 Site History
10.3.2 Field Techniques
10.3.3 Soil Data
10.3.4 Multicomponent Cation Exchange
10.3.5 Calculated Pore Water Compositions
10.3.6 Composition of Adsorbed Cations as a Function of Anionic Charge and Salinity
10.3.7 Discussion

10.4 Case Study 4: Limitations on the Use of Water Levels to Infer Directions of Fluid Flow in Variable Density Groundwater Systems-a Field Example

10.4.1 Site Location and History
10.4.2 Site Geology
10.4.3 Extent of Saline Contamination near Pits
10.4.4 Total Lateral Extent of Saline Contamination
10.4.5 Site Hydrology: Constant Fluid Density Model
10.4.6 Site Hydrology: Variable Density Considerations
10.4.7 Site Hydrology: Conceptual Model for Site

10.5 Exercises Pertinent to Section 10

11 Geologic Storage of CO2: Environmental Impacts on Potable Groundwater

11.1 Introduction

11.2 Sea Level Rise from Global Warming

11.3 Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

11.3.1 Concept of Hubs
11.3.2 Field Scale Demonstration Projects of Geologic Storage of CO2

11.4 Carbon Dioxide for EOR and Other Uses

11.5 Monitoring CO2 and Brine Leakage from Storage Sites

11.5.1 Subsurface Monitoring at the Frio Site, Texas
11.5.2 Near Surface Monitoring at the ZERT Site, Bozeman, Montana
11.5.3 Dissolved Inorganic Chemicals
11.5.4 Carbon Isotopes

11.6 Potential Environmental Impacts and Health Risks

11.6.1 Environmental Impacts
11.6.2 Health and Safety Concerns

11.7 Exercises Pertinent to Section 11

12 Summary and Wrap Up

12.1 Summary of the Three Major Parts of this Book

12.2 The Importance of Produced Water

12.2.1 The Composition of Produced Water

12.3 Future Research

13 Exercises

14 References

15 Boxes

16 Exercise Solutions

17 About the Authors