U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management Cooperative Coalbed Methane Project in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming

Fact Sheet 2006-3132




Introduction: Evidence that earthquakes threaten the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash River valleys of the Central United States abounds. In fact, several of the largest historical earthquakes to strike the continental United States occurred in the winter of 1811-1812 along the New Madrid seismic zone, which stretches from just west of Memphis, Tenn., into southern Illinois (fig. 1). Several times in the past century, moderate earthquakes have been widely felt in the Wabash Valley seismic zone along the southern border of Illinois and Indiana (fig. 1). Throughout the region, between 150 and 200 earthquakes are recorded annually by a network of monitoring instruments, although most are too small to be felt by people. Geologic evidence for prehistoric earthquakes throughout the region has been mounting since the late 1970s. But how significant is the threat? How likely are large earthquakes and, more importantly, what is the chance that the shaking they cause will be damaging?The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming Reservoir Management Group and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began a cooperative project in 1999 to collect technical and analytical data on coalbed methane (CBM) resources and quality of the water produced from coalbeds in the Wyoming part of the Powder River Basin. The agencies have complementary but divergent goals and these kinds of data are essential to accomplish their respective resource evaluation and management tasks. The project also addresses the general public need for information pertaining to Powder River Basin CBM resources and development. BLM needs, which relate primarily to the management of CBM resources, include improved gas content and gas in-place estimates for reservoir characterization and resource/reserve assessment, evaluation, and utilization. USGS goals include a basinwide assessment of CBM resources, an improved understanding of the nature and origin of coalbed gases and formation waters, and the development of predictive models for the assessment of CBM resources that can be used for such purposes in other basins in the United States (for example, the Bighorn, Greater Green River, and Williston Basins) and in other countries throughout the world (for example, Indonesia, New Zealand, and the Philippines). Samples of coal, produced water, and gas from coalbed methane drill holes throughout the Powder River Basin, many of which are adjacent to several active mine areas (figs. 1, 2), have been collected by personnel in the USGS, BLM Reservoir Management Group, and Casper and Buffalo BLM Field Offices. Sampling was done under confidentiality agreements with 29 participating CBM companies and operators. Analyses run on the samples include coal permeability, coal quality and chemistry, coal petrography and petrology, methane desorption and adsorption, produced-water chemistry, and gas composition and isotopes. The USGS has supplied results to the BLM Reservoir Management Group for their resource management needs, and data are released when the terms of the confidentiality agreements are completed and consent is obtained.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Land Management Cooperative Coalbed Methane Project in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming
Series title:
Fact Sheet
Series number:
Version 1.0
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
Central Energy Resources Team
6 p.