Environmental effects associated with the production of oil and gas have been reported since the first oil wells were drilled in the Appalachian Basin in Pennsylvania and Kentucky in the early to mid-1800s. The most significant of these effects are the degradation of soils, ground water, surface water, and ecosystems they support by releases of suspended and dissolved hydrocarbons and co-produced saline water. Produced water salts are less likely than hydrocarbons to be adsorbed by mineral phases in the soil and sediment and are not subject to degradation by biologic processes. Sodium is a major dissolved constituent in most produced waters and it causes substantial degradation of soils through altering of clays and soil textures and subsequent erosion. Produced water salts seem to have the most wide-ranging effects on soils, water quality, and ecosystems. Trace elements, including boron, lithium, bromine, fluorine, and radium, also occur in elevated concentrations in some produced waters. Many trace elements are phytotoxic and are adsorbed and may remain in soils after the saline water has been flushed away. Radium-bearing scale and sludge found in oilfield equipment and discarded on soils pose additional hazards to human health and ecosystems.
This bibliography includes studies from across the oil- and natural-gas-producing areas of the conterminous United States that were published in the last 80 yrs. The studies describe the effects of produced water salts on soils, water quality, and ecosystems. Also included are reports that describe (1) the inorganic chemistry of produced waters included in studies of formation waters for various purposes, (2) other sources of salt affecting water quality that may be mistaken for produced water effects, (3) geochemical and geophysical techniques that allow discrimination of salt sources, (4) remediation technologies designed to repair damage caused to soils and ground water by produced water salts, and (5) contamination by naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM)at oilfield sites.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Environmental aspects of produced-water salt releases in onshore and coastal petroleum-producing areas of the conterminous U.S. - a bibliography