CSU to study oil and gas water management

FORT COLLINS — A civil engineering professor at Colorado State University will work with a key oil and natural-gas producer in Weld County using a $1.4 million federal grant to optimize water management, CSU said Wednesday.

The two-year project, awarded through a U.S. Department of program, aims to assess and improve water acquisition, transportation and disposal.

CSU’s Ken Carlson will work with Noble Energy Inc. to develop computer modeling and online training materials. He expects that the project also will benefit communities by reducing truck traffic, pollution and use of water.

The study will help industry designing water-treatment plants to recycle oil- and gas-related wastewater.

“If the industry’s more efficient with water use, there’s less risk of environmental impact,” Carlson said in a statement from CSU.

“Another benefit of recycling is a reduction of stress on agriculture water and a reduced risk of regional water depletion.”

Improving management of water during drilling and hydraulic fracturing could lessen other environmental impacts including ecological degradation due to excessive truck traffic and the associated dust and land disturbance, Carlson said.

“There are 19,000 active wells in Weld County and most produce some water,” Carlson said. “Do we have 100 water-treatment plants? Do we have one? Is it better to use some water for reuse in industry and other for agriculture? The study will develop industry targeted geographic information system (GIS) based tools that can be used to assess the logistics of water use, transportation, reuse and disposal.”

As Noble Energy continues to increase activity in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, the company is seeking solutions to increase efficiencies and lessen impacts, said Ted Brown, senior vice president, Northern Region of Noble Energy.

“Our ongoing partnership with CSU is key in achieving this goal and living up to that corporate purpose,” Brown said in the statement.

Working with environmental groups, industry leaders and scientists, CSU can act as an objective third-party to understand the complexities of the energy industry and communicate those complicated issues to the public, Carlson said.

“We hope this collaboration will provide a unique opportunity to protect Colorado’s water resources while also enabling economic growth from the boom in oil and gas development in the region,” he said.

Carlson is an expert on water management associated with oil and gas drilling and pollutants that can affect drinking water supplies. Tom Bradley, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Kimberly Catton, a research scientist in civil engineering, are also working on the study.

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