Our latest issue of Survey Notes is here!
Find articles on pursuing water and energy solutions and more.

Check out past issues HERE








Tom Chidsey

Bulletin 138, Produced Water in the Uinta Basin, Utah: Evaluation of Reservoirs, Water Storage Aquifers, and Management Options

Salt Lake City (Nov. 29, 2017) — Oil and gas fields in the Uinta Basin of eastern Utah typically produce about 30 million barrels of oil and 325 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually. The hydrocarbon production also generates over 100 million barrels of saline non-potable water which requires disposal. A new Utah Geological Survey report addresses how to deal with this water.

Extensive drilling for gas in “tight” sandstones in the eastern part of the basin generates a need for water disposal, while in the central basin expanding enhanced oil recovery (EOR) programs, called waterflooding, creates a need for water. Although drilling activity is currently low in Utah, and elsewhere, due to depressed oil and gas prices, existing fields continue to produce. As wells mature, water production increases while oil and gas production decreases. In addition, oil and gas prices change depending on the economics of global market supply and demand. History has shown that these prices always rebound. The environmentally sound disposal of produced water affects the economics of the hydrocarbon resource development in the basin. Specific Uinta Basin water issues include water use/reuse for well drilling and completion (e.g., hydraulic fracturing), appropriate sites for disposal/reuse of water, development of systems to manage the produced water streams, and differing challenges for gas versus oil producers.

This new study by the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) covers the geology, chemistry, and best practices related to saline water production in the Uinta Basin. Specifically, it includes (1) descriptions and maps of Uinta Basin reservoirs and aquifers, (2) statistical trends of the basin’s water quality, (3) overviews of produced-water facilities, and (4) recommendations for the best management practices and options to deal with the produced water. Appendices provide complete data compilations either collected or generated as part of this study. The report provides a framework to address the divergent water uses and disposal interests of various stakeholders and will help industry, particularly small producers, and regulators make optimum management decisions. The report also offers sound scientific information to allay public concerns about the potential for drinking-water contamination from hydraulic fracturing and production operations.

The 279-page Utah Geological Survey Bulletin 138, Produced Water in the Uinta Basin, Utah: Evaluation of Reservoirs, Water Storage Aquifers, and Management Options, is available (PDF) for free download from the UGS website at geology.utah.gov. Print-on-demand copies are available for purchase from the Utah Department of Natural Resources Map and Bookstore, 1-888-UTAHMAP, www.mapstore.utah.gov.

This research was funded by the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) through the “Small Producers Program,” authorized by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, with additional support from the UGS. The UGS also collaborated extensively with sister regulatory agencies within the Utah Department of Natural Resources (Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, Division of Water Rights, Division of Water Resources) and other agencies such as the Utah Division of Environmental Quality, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as tribal authorities in the Uinta Basin. Participating industry partners were Anadarko Petroleum Corp., EOG Resources, Inc., QEP Resources, Inc., Wind River Resources, and Newfield Exploration.

The Utah Geological Survey, a division of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, provides timely scientific information about Utah’s geologic environment, resources, and hazards.

Find articles on re-mapping the Wasatch Fault using airborne lidar data, mapping geologic hazards in Utah and more among our regular featured columns.
View the latest issue

Check out past issues

Landslide Inventory Map of the Ferron Creek area, Sanpete and Emery Counties, Utah
By: Richard E. Giraud and Greg N. McDonald


This map presents a landslide inventory for the Ferron Creek area, Sanpete and Emery Counties, Utah, at a scale of 1:24,000. The purposes of the map and accompanying geodatabase are to show and characterize landslides areas and to provide information useful for managing landslide-related issues. Spatial and tabular data for each landslide are stored in the geodatabase and linked to the inventory map. Landslide information in the geodatabase includes: area, material type, movement type, landslide deposit name, landslide source name, movement activity, thickness, movement direction, approximate movement dates, geologic unit associated with landsliding, confidence in mapped boundaries, mapper, peer reviewer, and general comments.



The Gothic Shale of the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation, Greater Aneth Field (Aneth Unit), Southeastern Utah: Seal for Hydrocarbons and Carbon Dioxide
By: Jason E. Heath, Thomas A. Dewers, Thomas C. Chidsey, Jr., Stephanie M. Carney, and S. Robert Bereskin

Greater Aneth oil field, Utah’s largest oil producer, has produced over 483 million barrels of oil. Located in the Paradox Basin of southeastern Utah, Greater Aneth is a stratigraphic trap producing from the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation. Because Greater Aneth is a mature, major oil field in the western U.S., and has a large carbonate reservoir, it was selected to demonstrate combined enhanced oil recovery and carbon dioxide (CO2) storage. The Gothic shale seals the underlying Desert Creek oil reservoir, both in the Paradox Formation. Within the Aneth Unit in the northwestern part of the field, the Gothic is remarkably uniform, consisting of 7 to 26 feet (2–8 m) of black to gray, laminated to thin-bedded, dolomitic marine shale.

This 31-page Miscellaneous Publication is a detailed evaluation of the Gothic seal in the Aneth Unit and its effectiveness at supporting large CO2 and hydrocarbon columns in the Desert Creek reservoir below. This study includes geochemical, petrological, petrophysical, and geomechanical analyses that determined (1) the geologic controls on sealing effeciency, (2) effects of pressure changes on the seal due to CO2 injection and storage, and (3) possible chemical interaction between CO2 and the seal at its contact with the reservoir through time.


Our latest issue of Survey Notes is here!
Find articles on the Tooele 30’x 60′ quadrangle geologic map and practical uses of geologic maps, along with our regular featured columns.

View the latest issue here:

Check out past issues here: 

Holocene Surface-Faulting Earthquakes at the Spring Lake and North Creek Sites on the Wasatch Fault Zone: Evidence for Complex rupture of the Nephi Segment

By: Christopher B. DuRoss, Michael D. Hylland, Adam I. Hiscock, Stephen F. Personius, Richard W. Briggs, Ryan D. Gold, Gregg S. Beukelman, Greg N. McDonald, Ben A. Erickson, Adam P. McKean, Stephen J. Angster, Roselyn King, Anthony J. Crone, and Shannon A. Mahan


This 44-page report presents new data from the Spring Lake and North Creek trench sites on the Nephi segment of the Wasatch fault zone. We use paleoseismic data from these sites to refine Holocene earthquake chronologies for the northern and southern strands of the segment, calculate earthquake recurrence and fault slip rates, and assess whether the strands rupture independently or synchronously in large earthquakes. At the Spring Lake site, at least five to seven earthquakes occurred since ~13.1 ka, yielding a mean Holocene recurrence of ~1.2–1.5 kyr; at the North Creek site, at least five earthquakes occurred since ~4.7 ka, yielding a mean recurrence ~1.1–1.3 kyr. We integrate these results with previous paleoseismic data for the segment, discuss the timing and recurrence of large Nephi segment earthquakes, and evaluate possible models of surface-fault rupture involving the two fault strands.

Water Salinity Study for the Southern San Pitch Drainage System in Sanpete County, Utah
By: Janae Wallace, J. Lucy Jordan, Christian Hardwick, and Hugh Hurlow


This project determines the sources and extent of salinity in the lower San Pitch River drainage and adjoining Gunnison Irrigation Company canal system in southern Sanpete Valley using data we acquired over two field seasons documenting water quality and quantity along different reaches within the San Pitch River and Twelvemile Creek as well as nearby canals and springs. We use geologic mapping and geophysical techniques (TEM) to isolate and identify regions in the subsurface that likely have an influence on river salinity. The data collected for this study provide information necessary to make targeted management decisions to reduce salinity and provide for a sustainable supply of acceptable/suitable quality irrigation water for the GIC and its water users. Overall, our maps emphasize areas of higher and lower salinity sources and show calculated salt load to the San Pitch River.

Spring Inventory and Preliminary Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Assesment of Manti-La Sal National Forest, Wasatch Plateau, Utah
By Paul Inkenbrandt, Richard Emerson, Janae Wallace, J. Lucy Jordan, and Stefan Kirby


In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the Utah Geological Survey mapped springs and groundwater dependent ecosystems on the Wasatch Plateau. Using remote sensing, GIS, and field checking, more than 400 points were compiled and plotted for use by the Forest Service.

Potential Oil-Prone Areas in the Cane Creek Shale Play, Paradox Basin, Utah, Identified by Epifluorescence Microscope Techniques

By: Thomas C. Chidsey, Jr., David E. Eby


The Cane Creek shale of the Pennsylvanian Paradox Formation has produced more than 7.8 million barrels of oil and about 7.9 billion cubic feet of gas from 18 fields in the Paradox Basin of southeastern Utah. The Cane Creek is divided into three intervals—A, B, and C; the B interval is the primary oil producer. Finely crystalline dolomites and sandstones in the B interval have been the main targets of successful horizontal drilling programs. Hydrocarbon shows were recognized using nondestructive epifluorescence (EF) microscope techniques on samples from wells in the northern part of the basin. A new, qualitative visual EF rating system was developed and applied to these samples. A variety of EF ratings from each well were plotted and mapped.

This 44-page Special Study provides (1) a summary of the new EF methods used in the study; (2) detailed petrographic and EF descriptions of Cane Creek samples for 31 wells (in three appendices); (3) 16 maps showing potential oil-prone areas for the entire Cane Creek and the A, B, and C intervals; and (4) a statistical analysis of the EF data. The study will help petroleum companies determine exploration strategies and land acquisition areas. It will also be a reference for government land management agencies, county planners, and local landowners in decision making processes and resource assessments.