--> --> Abstract: Sustainable Development of CBM, Coal, and Groundwater in the Raton Basin of Colorado, USA, by Pilcher, Raymond C.; Tellio, Candice L.; Marshall, James S.; and Boger, Charlee A.; #90166 (2013)

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Sustainable Development of CBM, Coal, and Groundwater in the Raton Basin of Colorado, USA

Pilcher, Raymond C.1; Tellio, Candice L.; Marshall, James S.; and Boger, Charlee A.
1[email protected]

The Raton Basin, situated in southeast Colorado and northeast New Mexico, has been a profitable location for coal mining, natural gas and coalbed methane (CBM) development for many years. Coal mining in the region began in the late 1800’s, natural gas development started in the 1970’s and the first coalbed methane wells were drilled in the early 1980’s. In the Colorado portion of the basin, coalbed methane production peaked in 2008 when 131 BCF of gas and 121 MMbbls of water were produced, followed by an economically driven decline. Maximum sustained historical coal production in the early 1900s was 5.6 million tons. Thus far in this century, coal production peaked at approximately 1.1 million tons and then ceased until recent development at the New Elk site in Las Animas County.

Agriculture, an economic mainstay since the area was first settled, may soon be competing for water resources as the extractive industries grow and if the current industry practices and climate change trends continue. Determining the sustainable rates of development among each of these important economic sectors requires policy and decision makers to address the environmental impacts resulting from resource extraction and agricultural activities within the Raton Basin boundaries. Obvious points of concern and potential conflicts are surface disturbances resulting from mining and gas development; disposal of produced water from gas wells and coal mines, runoff from agricultural land, water rights conflicts and depletion of water resources. More subtle issues revolve around greenhouse gas emissions from industry activities stemming from gas production and mining. Oil and gas development has primacy on some leaseholds while coal mining has primacy on others. This situation poses barriers to employing a comprehensive approach to optimizing economic recovery of resources where both coal and gas are being extracted. Recent investigations have shown that both coal and gas can be sustainably extracted while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving water resources for future use.

This presentation will showcase the interplay between the natural gas and CBM producers and active coal mining taking place in the basin, focusing on illustrating the issues between producers and agricultural concerns; while outlining a path toward working together with policy makers to reduce conflict and environmental impact of resource extraction activities.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90166©2013 AAPG International Conference & Exhibition, Cartagena, Colombia, 8-11 September 2013