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Leachate migration from an in-situ oil-shale retort near Rock Springs, Wyoming

January 1, 1994

Hydrogeologic factors influencing leachate movement from an in-situ oil-shale retort near Rock Springs, Wyoming, were investigated through models of ground-water flow and solute transport. Leachate, indicated by the conservative ion thiocyanate, has been observed ? mile downgradient from the retort. The contaminated aquifer is part of the Green River Formation and consists of thin, permeable layers of tuff and sandstone interbedded with oil shale. Most solute migration has occurred in an 8-foot sandstone at the top of the aquifer. Ground-water flow in the study area is complexly three dimensional and is characterized by large vertical variations in hydraulic head. The solute-transport model was used to predict the concentration of thiocyanate at a point where ground water discharges to the land surface. Leachate with peak concentrations of thiocyanate--45 milligrams per liter or approximately one-half the initial concentration of retort water--was estimated to reach the discharge area during January 1985.

This report describes many of th3 advantages, as well as the problems, of site-specific studies. Data such as the distribution of thin, permeable beds or fractures might introduce an unmanageable degree of complexity to basin-wide studies but can be incorporated readily into site-specific models. Solute migration in the study area occurs primarily in thin, permeable beds rather than in oil-shale strata. Because of this behavior, leachate traveled far greater distances than might otherwise have been expected. The detail possible in site-specific models permits more accurate prediction of solute transport than is possible with basin-wide models. A major problem in site-specific studies is identifying model boundaries that permit the accurate estimation of aquifer properties. If the quantity of water flowing through a study area cannot be determined prior to modeling, the hydraulic conductivity and ground-water velocity will be poorly estimated.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1988
Title Leachate migration from an in-situ oil-shale retort near Rock Springs, Wyoming
DOI 10.3133/wsp2322
Authors Kent C. Glover
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water Supply Paper
Series Number 2322
Index ID wsp2322
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization