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Regional patterns in the geochemistry of oil-field water, southern San Joaquin Valley, California, USA

Peter B. McMahon, Justin T. Kulongoski, Avner Vengosh, Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, Matthew K. Landon, Yousif K. Kharaka, Janice M. Gillespie, Tracy A. Davis | September 21, 2018
Summary

Chemical and isotopic data for water co-extracted with hydrocarbons in oil and gasfields are commonly used toexamine the source of the formation water and possible impacts on groundwater in areas of oil and gas de-velopment. Understanding the geochemical variability of oil-field water could help to evaluate its origin anddelineate possible contamination of shallow aquifers in cases where oil-field water is released to the environ-ment. Here we report geochemical and multiple isotope (H, C, O, Sr, Ra) data from 22 oil wells, three sources ofproduced water that are disposed of in injection wells, and two surface disposal ponds in four oilfields in thesouthern San Joaquin Valley, California (Fruitvale, Lost Hills, North and South Belridge). Correlations betweenCl andδ18O, as well as other ions, and gradual increases in salinity with depth, indicate dilution of one or moresaline end-members by meteoric water. The saline end-members, represented by deep samples (610 m–2621 m)in three oil-bearing zones, are characterized by NaeCl composition, near-seawater Cl concentrations (median20,000 mg/L), enrichedδ18OeH2O (median 3.4‰), high ammonium (up to 460 mg-N/L), and relatively highradium activity (226Ra+228Ra = 12.3 Bq/L). The deepest sample has low Na/Cl (0.74), high Ca/Mg (5.0), andlow87Sr/86Sr (0.7063), whereas the shallower samples have higher Na/Cl (0.86–1.2), Ca/Mg near 1, and higher87Sr/86Sr (∼0.7083). The data are consistent with an original seawater source being modified by various depthand lithology dependent diagenetic processes. Dilution by meteoric water occurs naturally on the east side of thevalley, and in association with water-injection activities on the west side. Meteoric-waterflushing, particularlyon the east side, results in lower solute concentrations (minimum total dissolved solids 2730 mg/L) and totalradium (minimum 0.27 Bq/L) in oil-field water, and promotes biodegradation of dissolved organic carbon andhydrocarbon gases like propane. Acetate concentrations andδ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon indicate biogenicmethane production occurs in some shallow oil zones. Natural and human processes produce substantialvariability in the geochemistry of oil-field water that should be considered when evaluating mixing between oil-field waters and groundwater. The variability could result in uncertainty as to detecting the potential source andimpact of oil-field water on groundwater.

Product Description

Chemical and isotopic data for water co-extracted with hydrocarbons in oil and gasfields are commonly used toexamine the source of the formation water and possible impacts on groundwater in areas of oil and gas de-velopment. Understanding the geochemical variability of oil-field water could help to evaluate its origin anddelineate possible contamination of shallow aquifers in cases where oil-field water is released to the environ-ment. Here we report geochemical and multiple isotope (H, C, O, Sr, Ra) data from 22 oil wells, three sources ofproduced water that are disposed of in injection wells, and two surface disposal ponds in four oilfields in thesouthern San Joaquin Valley, California (Fruitvale, Lost Hills, North and South Belridge). Correlations betweenCl andδ18O, as well as other ions, and gradual increases in salinity with depth, indicate dilution of one or moresaline end-members by meteoric water. The saline end-members, represented by deep samples (610 m–2621 m)in three oil-bearing zones, are characterized by NaeCl composition, near-seawater Cl concentrations (median20,000 mg/L), enrichedδ18OeH2O (median 3.4‰), high ammonium (up to 460 mg-N/L), and relatively highradium activity (226Ra+228Ra = 12.3 Bq/L). The deepest sample has low Na/Cl (0.74), high Ca/Mg (5.0), andlow87Sr/86Sr (0.7063), whereas the shallower samples have higher Na/Cl (0.86–1.2), Ca/Mg near 1, and higher87Sr/86Sr (∼0.7083). The data are consistent with an original seawater source being modified by various depthand lithology dependent diagenetic processes. Dilution by meteoric water occurs naturally on the east side of thevalley, and in association with water-injection activities on the west side. Meteoric-waterflushing, particularlyon the east side, results in lower solute concentrations (minimum total dissolved solids 2730 mg/L) and totalradium (minimum 0.27 Bq/L) in oil-field water, and promotes biodegradation of dissolved organic carbon andhydrocarbon gases like propane. Acetate concentrations andδ13C of dissolved inorganic carbon indicate biogenicmethane production occurs in some shallow oil zones. Natural and human processes produce substantialvariability in the geochemistry of oil-field water that should be considered when evaluating mixing between oil-field waters and groundwater. The variability could result in uncertainty as to detecting the potential source andimpact of oil-field water on groundwater.

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Keywords:

Groundwater Exchange, monitoring, oil and gas, water quality