Natural gas is currently being produced from shales of the Montney and Liard basins in western Canada. Production requires hydraulic fracturing due to the low permeability of the shales in the basins. Stratigraphically equivalent shales are present in the northern Canadian Rocky Mountains. Thermal springs with notable hydrocarbon concentrations occur where large-scale faults intersect the same shale units that are the focus of gas development, indicating that under certain circumstances, connection of deep fractured shales to the land surface is possible. To constrain these conditions, simulations were conducted for the spring with the highest hydrocarbon flux (Toad River Spring), results of which indicate that in order to supply sufficient water to a fault to support measurable advection, the effective permeability of the shales in these structurally deformed areas must be one to four orders of magnitude higher than in areas of active gas production to the east. The spatial scale of enhanced permeability is much greater than that which is achieved by hydraulic fracturing and the mechanism of maintaining high pressures at depth is more persistent in time. Examination of groundwater velocities suggests that upward migration of solutes from hydraulic fracturing may take decades to centuries. Results also indicate that any temperature anomaly will be associated with transport along a fault at such velocities. No such temperature anomaly has been documented in regions with unconventional oil and gas development to date. Such an anomaly would be diagnostic of a deep solute source.
Hydrogeology Journal – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 5, 2017
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