Volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions characterization during the flow-back phase of a hydraulically refractured well in the Uintah Basin, Utah using mobile PTR-MS measurements

Monday, 15 December 2014
Felix Geiger1, Carsten Warneke2,3, Steven S Brown3, Joost A De Gouw2,3, William P Dube2,3, Pete Edwards2,3, Jessica Gilman2,3, Martin Graus2,3, Frank Helleis4, Jonathan Kofler2,3, Brian M Lerner2,3, Johannes Orphal1, Gabrielle Petron2,3, James M Roberts3 and Andreas Zahn1, (1)Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany, (2)CIRES, Boulder, CO, United States, (3)NOAA ESRL, Boulder, CO, United States, (4)Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Ongoing improvements in advanced technologies for crude oil and natural gas extraction from unconventional reserves, such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have greatly increased the production of fossil fuels within recent years. The latest forecasts even estimate an enhancement of 56% in total natural gas production due to increased development of shale gas, tight gas and offshore natural gas resources from 2012 to 2040 with the largest contribution from shale formations [US EIA: Annual Energy Outlook 2014].

During the field intensive ‘Energy and Environment – Uintah Basin Winter Ozone Study (UBWOS)’, measurements of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were made using proton-transfer-reactions mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) at the ground site Horse Pool and using a mobile laboratory in the Uintah Basin, Utah, which is a region well known for intense fossil fuel production. A reworked gas well in the Red Wash fields was sampled regularly within two weeks performing mobile laboratory measurements downwind of the well site. The well had been recently hydraulically refractured at that time and waste water was collected into an open flow-back pond. Very high mixing ratios of aromatic hydrocarbons (C6-C13) up to the ppm range were observed coming from condensate and flow-back reservoirs.

The measurements are used to determine sources of specific VOC emissions originating from the different parts of the well site and mass spectra are used to classify the air composition in contrast to samples taken at the Horse Pool field site and crude oil samples from South Louisiana. Enhancement ratios and time series of measured peak values for aromatics showed no clear trend, which indicates changes in emissions with operations at the site.