The Black Warrior Basin of the southeastern United States hosts one of the world's most prolific and long-lived coalbed methane plays, and the wealth of experience in this basin provides insight into the relationships among basin hydrology, production performance, and environmental issues. Along the southeast margin of the basin, meteoric recharge of reservoir coal beds exposed in an upturned fold limb exerts a strong control on water chemistry, reservoir pressure, and production performance. Fresh-water plumes containing Na-HCO3 waters with low TDS content extend from the structurally upturned basin margin into the interior of the basin. Northwest of the plumes, coal beds contain Na-Cl waters with moderate to high-TDS content. Carbon isotope data from produced gas and mineral cements suggest that the fresh-water plumes have been the site of significant bacterial activity and that the coalbed methane reservoirs contain a mixture of thermogenic and late-stage biogenic gases. Water produced from the fresh-water plumes may be disposed safely at the surface, whereas underground injection has been used locally to dispose of highly saline water. Wells in areas that had normal hydrostatic reservoir pressure prior to development tend to produce large volumes of water and may take up to 4 a to reach peak gas production. In contrast, wells drilled in naturally underpressured areas distal to the fresh-water plumes typically produce little water and achieve peak gas rates during the first year of production. Environmental debate has focused largely on issues associated with hydrologic communication between deep reservoir coal beds and shallow aquifers. In the coalbed methane fields of the Black Warrior Basin, a broad range of geologic evidence suggests that flow is effectively confined within coal and that the thick intervals of marine shale separating coal zones limit cross-formational flow. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Hydrodynamics of coalbed methane reservoirs in the Black Warrior Basin: Key to understanding reservoir performance and environmental issues