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Published August 11, 2010, 01:35 PM

Coal-bed methane water examined in 6 states

DENVER — Water produced by coal-bed methane drilling can be treated for livestock, wildlife and farms to use, but costs and regulations are causing most of the water to be disposed of instead, according to a prepublication version of a new study.

DENVER — Water produced by coal-bed methane drilling can be treated for livestock, wildlife and farms to use, but costs and regulations are causing most of the water to be disposed of instead, according to a prepublication version of a new study.

The study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences was mandated by the 2005 federal energy bill. It reviewed what is known about how coal-bed methane drilling affects water in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and North Dakota and what needs more study.

In some coal beds, water pressure keeps methane fixed within the coal, so pumping out the water can release natural gas.

The prepublication version of the research council’s report says short-term environmental effects of this produced water are relatively benign, but more monitoring is needed to study long-term effects.

There is no national consensus on policies that account for both environmental effects of water that is a byproduct of coal-bed methane drilling and its potential beneficial uses, the research council said.

Complicating matters is the quality of that byproduct water varies from region to region, along with state regulations.

U.S. coal-bed methane production represents about 10 percent of annual domestic dry natural gas production, the report said.

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