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Industry Insights
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Assessing Brine Disposal Capacity in the Northern Appalachian Basin

How much brine can be stored in the Northern Appalachian Basin, and where are the safest places to inject? Oil and gas operators in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania now have clear answers for safe, economical brine disposal decisions. 

Growth in shale gas production in the Appalachian region has led to increased demand for brine and flowback water disposal options. In 2013, the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) contracted with Battelle to lead an investigation of the geologic storage capacity of the Northern Appalachian Basin in order to develop a geologic and operational framework for brine disposal. Research was completed in 2015, and results are now available in a new technical report from RPSEA. The report details storage capacity and geotechnical suitability in the main injection zones throughout the region to help oil and gas producers identify the most economical, geographically convenient and safe geologic storage locations for brine disposal. 

The project—conducted in partnership with Kentucky Geological Survey, NSI Technologies, Ohio Division of Geological Survey, Pennsylvania Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey, West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, and Ohio Oil Gathering Corporation—studied geotechnical parameters and historical operational data from eastern Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Researchers analyzed subsurface characteristics and took core samples to evaluate the permeability, strength and porosity of rock in different areas. They also looked at historical operational data in each of the studied zones. Using computer modeling and simulation, they were able to determine total storage capacity and predict the potential fate and transport of injected brine in each target area. Field research at six operating wells was used to validate the computer models.

The study determined that, overall, there is more than enough capacity to meet projected brine disposal needs for the shale gas industry for many years to come. However, some areas are more suitable for brine disposal than others. The technical report details this local information along with recommended safe injection rates and limits for each area.