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Hydrogeology of the Owego-Apalachin Elementary School geothermal fields, Tioga County, New York

December 22, 2015

The hydrogeology of the Owego-Apalachin Elementary School geothermal fields, which penetrate saline water and methane in fractured upper Devonian age bedrock in the Owego Creek valley, south-central New York, was characterized through the analysis of drilling and geophysical logs, water-level monitoring data, and specific-depth water samples. Hydrogeologic insights gained during the study proved beneficial for the design of the geothermal drilling program and protection of the overlying aquifer during construction, and may be useful for the development of future geothermal fields and other energy-related activities, such as drilling for oil and natural gas in similar fractured-bedrock settings.

The southwest geothermal field consists of 204 closed-loop wells that penetrate a major saline water-bearing zone associated with bedding-plane fractures near the middle of an interbedded sandstone and shale interval at depths of 238 to 263 feet below land surface (ft bls). The northeast geothermal field consists of 80 closed-loop wells that penetrate a major saline water-bearing zone associated with bedding-plane fractures near the base of the interbedded sandstone and shale interval at depths of 303 to 323 ft bls.

Transmissivity estimates for the major saline water-bearing fractured zones range from 735 to 3,400 feet squared per day. The saline water-bearing zone in the southwest field is hydraulically connected over a horizontal distance of at least 350 feet. The hydraulic connection between subhorizontal, stacked bedding-plane fractures is limited by the number and transmissivity of interspersed higher angle fractures; locally, greater stratigraphic separation results in reduced connectivity to a greater degree than does horizontal distance.

The specific conductance of the saline water from the shallower fractured zone in the southwest field was about 16,000 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius (μS/cm at 25°C), and that from the fractured zone in the northeast field was about 65,000 μS/cm at 25°C. The saline waters were characterized by a chemical composition similar to that of deep formation brines collected from oil and gas wells in the Appalachian Basin. About 40 percent of the geothermal wells discharged methane gas to land surface during and (or) following drilling. Sandstone beds at depths of 348 to 378 ft bls are the likely source of the methane gas, which was determined to be early thermogenic in origin.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Hydrogeology of the Owego-Apalachin Elementary School geothermal fields, Tioga County, New York
DOI 10.3133/sir20155155
Authors John H. Williams, William M. Kappel
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2015-5155
Index ID sir20155155
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center

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