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Dissolved organic matter within oil and gas associated wastewaters from U.S. unconventional petroleum plays: Comparisons and consequences for disposal and reuse

June 8, 2022

Wastewater generated during petroleum extraction (produced water) may contain high concentrations of dissolved organics due to their intimate association with organic-rich source rocks, expelled petroleum, and organic additives to fluids used for hydraulic fracturing of unconventional (e.g., shale) reservoirs. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) within produced water represents a challenge for treatment prior to beneficial reuse. High salinities characteristic of produced water, often 10× greater than seawater, coupled to the complex DOM ensemble create analytical obstacles with typical methods. Excitation-emission matrix spectroscopy (EEMS) can rapidly characterize the fluorescent component of DOM with little impact from matrix effects. We applied EEMS to evaluate DOM composition in 18 produced water samples from six North American unconventional petroleum plays. Represented reservoirs include the Eagle Ford Shale (Gulf Coast Basin), Wolfcamp/Cline Shales (Permian Basin), Marcellus Shale and Utica/Point Pleasant (Appalachian Basin), Niobrara Chalk (Denver-Julesburg Basin), and the Bakken Formation (Williston Basin). Results indicate that the relative chromophoric DOM composition in unconventional produced water may distinguish different lithologies, thermal maturity of resource types (e.g., heavy oil vs. dry gas), and fracturing fluid compositions, but is generally insensitive to salinity and DOM concentration. These results are discussed with perspective toward DOM influence on geochemical processes and the potential for targeted organic compound treatment for the reuse of produced water.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Dissolved organic matter within oil and gas associated wastewaters from U.S. unconventional petroleum plays: Comparisons and consequences for disposal and reuse
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156331
Authors Bonnie McDevitt, Aaron M. Jubb, Matthew S. Varonka, Madalyn S. Blondes, Mark A Engle, Tanya J. Gallegos, Jenna L. Shelton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Series Number
Index ID 70232190
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Energy Resources Science Center