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As part of a multidisciplinary group of about 20 scientists, we are investigating the transport, fate, natural attenuation, and ecosystem impacts of inorganic salts and organic compounds present in releases of produced water and associated hydrocarbons at the Osage–Skiatook Petroleum Environmental Research (OSPER) sites, located in Osage County, Oklahoma. Geochemical data collected from nearby oil wells show that the produced water source is a Na-Ca-Cl brine (∼150,000 mg/L total dissolved solids [TDS]), with relatively high concentrations of Mg, Sr, and NH4, but low SO4 and H2S. Results from the depleted OSPER A site show that the salts continue to be removed from the soil and surficial rocks, but degraded oil persists on the contaminated surface. Eventually, the bulk of inorganic salts and dissolved organics in the brine will reach the adjacent Skiatook Lake, a 4250-ha (10,501-ac) potable water reservoir.
Repeated sampling of 44 wells show a plume of high-salinity water (2000–30,000 mg/L TDS) at intermediate depths that intersects Skiatook Lake and extends beyond the visibly impacted areas. No liquid petroleum was observed in this plume, but organic acid anions, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), and other volatile organic carbon (VOC) are present. The chemical composition of released brine is modified by sorption, mineral precipitation and dissolution, evapotranspiration, volatilization, and bacterially mediated oxidation-reduction reactions, in addition to mixing with percolating precipitation water, lake water, and pristine groundwater. Results show that only minor amounts of salt are removed by runoff, supporting the conclusion that significant amounts of salts from produced water and petroleum releases still remain in the soils and rocks of the impacted area after more than 65 yr of natural attenuation.
Kharaka has been a research hydrogeochemist with the U.S. Geological Survey since1975. His current research covers the fields of water-rock-gas interactions, CO2 sequestration, contamination from agricultural drainage and petroleum produced water, and fluid-fault interactions. Kharaka has authored more than 100 scientific papers and book chapters and has delivered about 200 presentations. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1971.Thordsen is a geologist, employed with the U.S. Geological Survey since 1981 and presently working in the project team Hydrogeochemistry of Fine Grained Sediments, in the Water Resources Division, National Research Program. His recent research covers water-rock interactions and geochemical modeling in geothermal systems, fault-fluid systems, and petroleum produced water brine impacts. He received his M.S. in geology from the Ohio State University in 1988.
Kakouros has been a hydrogeologist in the U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division in Menlo Park, California, since 1999. His current research covers the fields of Se contamination from agricultural drainage, CO2 sequestration, and contamination from petroleum and petroleum-produced water. Kakouros received his M.Sc. from the San Jose State University in 2001.
Herkelrath is a physicist in the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Resources Division National Research Program in Menlo Park, California. Herkelrath received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His recent research interests include multiphase flow and solute transport modeling in shallow ground-water systems where oil or brine is present.