State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2009WY47B
Title: Effects of Warm CBM Product Water Discharge on Winter Fluvial and Ice Processes in the Powder River Basin
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2011
Congressional District: 1
Focus Categories: Hydrology, Geomorphological Processes
Keywords: Ice, Frazil, Anchor ice, Coal bed methane, Discharge water
Principal Investigators: Ettema, Robert; Kempema, Edward
Federal Funds: $ 9,089
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 61,450
Abstract: The potential adverse geochemical impacts of discharging coalbed methane (CBM) product water into stream drainages is well recognized. As a result, the geochemistry of CBM waters has received significant study. However, CBM product water also transports heat from coal beds to streams. The effects of this heat flux are not well recognized or understood. The PIs suggest that heat transported with CBM product water discharged into streams has a significant impact on the thermal balance of streams during winter.

Heat conveyed by CBM waters probably delays or retards ice-cover formation, thereby exposing surface water to more dynamic and troublesome types of ice formation. Frazil (small ice discs suspended in supercooled water) and anchor ice (ice attached to the riverbed) are more likely to form throughout the winter in the absence of a surface ice cover. Frazil and anchor ice increase the potential for winter flooding, scouring, and ice rafting. In addition, frazil and anchor ice accumulations probably decrease the area of critical habitat for trout and other aquatic life during the winter months. The PIs propose studying the effects of warm CBM product water discharge into streams in the Powder River Basin. The study, supported by the project proposed here, will extend through 2 winters, and will comprise two parts: a regional survey to delineate the general geographic extent of open water, frazil, and anchor ice along Powder River Basin streams, and site-specific studies to obtain detailed information on water temperatures, heat fluxes, and the amounts and distributions of frazil and anchor ice along open-water reaches of CMB-heat-impacted streams. The project's results will contribute to a substantially better understanding of how CBM-produced water impacts streams in the Powder River Basin and elsewhere. These results will be of use to resource managers in regions where CBM discharge water is discharged into surface waters. In addition, this study will add to knowledge about winter fluvial processes, frazil ice, and anchor ice formation in Wyoming streams.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF
Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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