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Possible Pathways of Vertical Conductivity at the Petroglyph Little Creek Coalbed Methane Project

Walsenburg, Colorado

Paul Denney, Consulting Geologist, Nov 2008

Purpose of Study: Is Vertical Conductivity Possible?

What is causing surface gas seeps, water well depletion, chemical and methane contamination in areas not observed before 2005? Faults and permeable dikes may create vertical conduits explaining the problems listed above

Summary of Geologic Evidence

Gas fields require an overlying seal (usually thick shale) to prevent gas from raising vertically. Geologic faults have broken the seals at the top of both the Vermejo and Raton formations. Evidence exists that prove the Unfug & Walsen dikes are not barriers to fluid flow. Complex stratigraphy limits the use of pump tests to define fluid flow.

Project History
drilling began 1998 water pumping began 1999 to date 36,000 ac-ft water produced 60 million cu-ft gas produced after large volume pumps installed 2005 fugitive gas seeps and water well contamination noted 2005

Preliminary Structure Map: Top Trinidad Sandstone

Problems Encountered
Water Well Depletion-Excessive Water Production Petroglyph is producing 5000X as much water per million cu-ft gas as typical well in Spanish Peaks field Is excess water coming from shallow aquifer?
1. Petroglyph pump tests vs 2. Peter Barkmann, Oct 2004, Vertical Hydraulic Conductivity, Denver Basin; pump tests unreliable in complex stratigraphy would not provide estimates of vertical conductivity

Problems Encountered

Fugitive Gas Poison Canyon gas and chemical contaminations are now known to be derived from Vermejo-Raton coal

Statement by Norwest Quest Engineering to COGCC Sept 25, 2008

Geology and Hydrology

Statement subject to question

Evidence cited in WSP-1805 proves conductivity exists across dikes


The Reasoning Trap: 1 Why is it important to recognize if the

Poison Canyon is an unreliable aquifer?

2 Why is it important to understand if dikes

obstruct or facilitate subsurface fluid movements? If the statements on slide 8 are accepted at face value, there is no reason to further investigate dikes or the Poison Canyon aquifer as conduits of vertical fluid movement.

Alluvium: unconsolidated sand, gravel and clay filling in todays stream valleys. 80% of the 495 permitted wells existing at the end of 1965 were less then 100 deep. Such shallow wells were probably in alluvium


Alluvial aquifer Raton-Vermejo outcrop


Alluvial aquifer


This slide a composite of text and diagram from: McLaughlin, 1966 WSP 1805

Page 35

Page 79


As reported by Norwest-Quest (Petroglyph sub-contractor): this publication discussed the limitations of the Poison Canyon Formation as a water source including the fact that yields from the aquifer were small and the use of the aquifer for water supply would be subject to perennial water shortages (USGS, 1966). My findings: 1) After 4 readings I could not find this statement or a similar one in Paper 1805. The statement may (?) come from a 1961 publication by same author.


Mapped on the surface May have undetected extensions in subsurface Dikes extend deep into subsurface Must recognize the probability of dikes as possible conduits


Norwest Quest Engineering, on behalf of Petroglyph submitted the following statement to COGCC on Sept. 25, 2008

McLaughlin states: Both dikes and sills were intruded at high temperature and altered the rocks through which molten material passed. Sandstone was hardened and permeability reduced. Shale was also hardened, jointed and permeability greatly enhanced. As a result, shale that usually has little permeability may be highly permeable adjacent to dikes and sills. Further; altered zones of shale near dikes and sills can be conduits through which water can move readily.
See Water Supply Paper 1805, pg 83


Little Creek
1930 1940 1949

Statement from Norwest-Quest Engineering, Sept 25, 2008

Statement from McLaughlin, 1966 Water Supply Paper 1805, pages 36 & 37


The only methane seep found by Apogee Surveys in 2001

Pictou dike

Walsen dike

Unfug dike


Well Logs: electrical & radioactive recordings of interior walls of wellbores Well Logs used to identify rock types Well logs used to correlate between wells Elevation of rock layers calculated and structure (including faults) mapped Surface observations can extrapolated into the subsurface
PPD Nov 08


Wells logs are electrical and radioactivity recordings of rocks penetrated by wells. They provide determination of rock types and fluids in the wells. Color key: yellow= sand; orange= siltstone usually, sometimes sand or conglomerate; green and gray= shale

Raton Fm.

Vermejo Fm.


Petroglyph 35-11B

Petroglyph 36-02

Basal Raton Conglomerate

Correlation Between Wells 6500 feet apart

Sand channel changes position

Vermejo Fm.

Notice how this shale filled channel changes position

Petroglyph reports that Trinidad ss and Vermejo have common hydraulic conductivity. Therefore this shale cannot be sealing

Trinidad Ss


Identify faults by comparing logs A fault is located by identifying intervals of missing rocks Faults move and offset rocks of different age. When permeable zones of different formations are positioned together, conduits across stratigraphic zones are created and barriers are by-passed

Trinidad Sandstone Detail Structure


Petroglyph 2W

Petroglyph 3W

Petroglyph 36-02

Because of fault (missing section), red zone now in contact with yellow zone. Hydraulic connection established

PPD Nov 08

Medium thick sand channel changes position in all 3 wells Barrett water well (offset 150N) total depth 817

Thick sand channel changes between wells.

85 faulted out; fault cuts top 23 Raton

PPD Nov 08

Geologists must think in four dimensions.

Sand bodies appearing in cross-sections as lenticular, actually are channels extending back into the display
1. 2. Channels run many miles, cross-cut other sand bodies Channels climb in the rock section

Gas migrates upwards along faults/ fractures and laterally through crosscutting sand bodies. Gas migrates through fractured dikes
PPD Nov 08


Walsenburg & Cuchara River; 65 million years ago, perhaps 50 miles from the sea swamp area
Overbank deposits muds, silts mixed with minor sand

new channel: mud buried by sand


point bar: sand A


abandoned meander: channel

filled with sand, later buried by silt & mud

As shown here a channel may run for many miles, yet width of channel 25 may only be mile across.


Cuchara channel

Index Map
Lathrop St Pk

Cuchara River 65mya Middle Raton Sandstone paleoenvironment

Coal in direct contact with down-cut channel. Possible conduit for gas to move vertically and along strike of channel



8.4 9.2

6.8 22.5 3.7

6.2 4.4


7.8 9.7 7.7


5.5 21.4MMBW 14.0 6.3 1.9 19.7 2.2 6.4


8.2 6.7


Little Creek CBM Project Water Production 1millionBW=129ac-ft



Six sidewall cores were taken in igneous sill over an interval of 169. Analysis showed reservoir quality rock saturated with hydrocarbons. Formation Imaging Log revealed 412 open fractures over the 310 igneous interval. Fractures have apertures 0.8-2.0 millimeters. Fractures may be due to contraction during cooling or later movement.



Traditional seismic data provides information on rock structure Passive Seismic records microseismicity, or movements within the earth. These occur naturally or when in-situ stresses are disturbed by fluid production.
PS is recorded with geophones placed underground, PS can detect nearby faults, fluid anomalies and if recorded over a period of time, fluid movement.
PPD Nov 08

1. 2.


Erosional unconformity

Traditional Reflection Seismic Data still used in Oil & Gas Exploration. Vertical scale shown here represents 4500 Horizontal scale = approximately 1 mile

Reflection events are generated at contrasting rock strata contacts. Subsurface geologic structure obvious. This type data is a snapshot in time. Normally, little can be said about the fluids within these rocks.
PPD Nov 08


Trinidad, Colorado 2001 Seismic used to define location and attitude of previously unknown fault 6000-20,000 below the surface.. Movement on this fault occurred at discrete elevation levels over the monitoring period (5 weeks).

Passive Seismic Data

USGS OF-02-073


Passive seismic cross-section views




2002 Map view

Expanding gas envelope


Base Survey

Monitor survey +3 months

Practical Use of Passive Seismic Monitoring

Athabasca Tar Sands, Alberta, Canada Steam injected into lower portion of well can be seen to move toward right center of display. Time lapse 3 months. Change in reflectivity is caused by changes in rock density due to heating.

Microseismic, Inc monitoring technique

Injection point


The problems; what affects water level in domestic wells?
What causes the water contamination (methane and chemical)?

The answer; pathways by which fluids move through the

subsurface We have seen three types of conduits that may allow contamination of the Poison Canyon aquifer by waters and methane from the coaly formations. These are; 1. Previously undetected faults in the Petroglyph wells 2. Leaky dikes in the immediate Little Creek area 3. Sand channels cross-cutting other aquifers;

What can be done to mitigate the problems?

1. Petroglyph is monitoring nearby water wells 2. More emphasis on geologic study to identify additional faults and possible downward-cutting sand channels 3. Passive Seismic monitoring

Recommendation Passive Seismic Monitoring is used to solve

problems like those facing Petroglyph Energy: 1) Is methane gas raising toward the surface along faults or dikes; 2) Are CBM wells lowering the water levels in domestic wells; 3) Is Raton & Vermejo water mixing into the Poison Canyon aquifer; 4) Are frac fluids escaping into the surrounding sediments? Passive Seismic is a tool that shouldnt be ignored and certainly it is to everyones benefit to find answers to the above questions. End of Program
PPD Nov 08



Late Cretaceous-Tertiary67-65 mya Vermejo-Raton paleogeography

Late Cretaceous Paleoenvironmental Map of North American

Raton Basin

Earliest Paleocene 65 mya Raton Formation paleogeography, Painting by Donna Braginetz, DMNS