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Petroleum group investigates Permian Basin injected waters/stratigraphy

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An oilfield pulling unit, Chaves County, NM.
Courtesy of Ron Broadhead

Permian Basin, NM
— August 11, 2020

The Bureau of Geology’s petroleum group received multiple grants from the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD) to support research into injected produced water disposal and stratigraphy in the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico.

One project, led by Senior Petroleum Geologist Luke Martin, targets the amount of produced water injected into subsurface reservoirs through salt water disposal wells.

Three to seven times as much water as oil and gas is produced in the Permian Basin. Although the reuse or recycling of this poor-quality water is increasing within the petroleum industry, much of it is currently injected into brackish or brine water aquifers in the subsurface. The project will develop maps showing the spatial distribution and volumes of produced water injected by industry.

“The project data is being gathered from several sources, including state records and geologic publications,” Martin said. “However, a lot of that is not available in digital format, so we collect data from .pdf reports. The Bureau maintains a database where [Petroleum Information Coordinator] Annabelle [Lopez] records the data from drilling completion permits. Production and produced water injection volumes will come from the OCD Data and Statistics page and the Petroleum Recovery Research Center’s Go-Tech website.”

Industry operators target 400-450 million-year-old Siluro-Devonian rocks for produced water disposal. However, the lower contact of this interval can be difficult to identify in the subsurface.

This is the focus of the second project.

Led by Bureau Petroleum Geologist Joseph Grigg, the project will develop structure contour maps of Ordovician and Siluro-Devonian strata. A network of log-based cross sections and a database of wells will be used to develop standardized physical criteria for distinguishing the targeted strata in the subsurface in cuttings and petrophysical logs.

“The primary objective is to map out the Siluro-Devonian section in the Permian Basin portion of New Mexico,” said Grigg. “This includes the platform and shelf carbonates, limestones and dolomites, of the Thirtyone, Wristen and Fusselman formations. These formations are capped by the organic-rich Woodford Shale. Below the Siluro-Devonian is the Montoya Group consisting of sandstones and dolomites.”

The project will provide OCD staff with a resource to determine stratigraphy of produced water disposal zones. Results will include preliminary descriptions and analyses of porosity types bounding the Ordovician-Siluro-Devonian contact developed from cores and well cuttings stored at the Bureau, providing insight into the ability of the boundary to contain injected produced water.

“The maps of these intervals will give the OCD a resource to reference when permitting injection wells,” Grigg said. “It will give the OCD and industry a baseline for identifying these intervals in cuttings and petrophysical logs.”

“The goal is to provide technical assistance to the regulatory agency,” Martin said. “These projects will give the OCD reference tools to consider during subsurface evaluation.”

The maps and reports produced by these projects will be made publicly available through the Bureau’s website and publications.

For more information, contact:

Luke Martin, Senior Petroleum Geologist,

Joseph Grigg, Petroleum Geologist,