UTA partners with Apache Corporation to conduct a baseline water quality study in the area of the Alpine High oil and gas resource play

Chemists from The University of Texas at Arlington have partnered with Apache Corporation to conduct a baseline water quality study of groundwater and surface water in the newly discovered Alpine High resource play in West Texas.

In September of 2016, Apache announced that it has discovered approximately 15 billion barrels of oil equivalent in southern Reeves County, Texas. The Alpine High resource play lies in the southern corner of the Delaware Basin within the prolific Permian Basin.

“This marks an exciting opportunity for our team to collaborate with an industry partner in an area with an extremely sensitive ecology,” said Kevin Schug, UTA’s Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry and director of the Collaborative Laboratories for Environmental Analysis and Remediation or CLEAR lab.

“Through this partnership, we will be able to conduct a baseline analysis of both surface and water quality in the area which will provide important data for future monitoring efforts,” Schug said.

Apache Corporation has been recognized for its efforts to manage water resources and protect water quality in drilling operations in a joint report on hydraulic fracturing from As You Sow, Boston Common Asset Management and the Investor Environmental Health Network, entitled “Disclosing the Facts.” The company has developed a unique water-management system which uses brackish and recycled produced water to meet the water needs of its oil and gas activities in other areas of West Texas. Apache is looking to implement a similar program in its Alpine High development.

“Our recent discovery represents a significant opportunity for Reeves County. We are in the early stages of this project and want to take proactive steps to protect the sensitive ecology and water resources in the area,” said Cal Cooper, director of special projects and emerging technology for Apache. “Our partnership with UTA’s CLEAR Lab will provide valuable baseline data as we work to monitor our operations and responsibly develop the abundant oil and natural gas resources at Alpine High.”

Recently, an initial UTA study through CLEAR found abnormalities in drinking water in South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale, indicative of some contamination from industrial or agricultural activities in the area. The research was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Another study, published in August in Science and the Total Environment, showed that highly variable contamination events registered in and around unconventional oil and gas developments are the result of operational inefficiencies and not inherent to the extraction process itself.

Frederick MacDonnell, chair of UTA’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, underlined the importance of the CLEAR lab within the university’s focus on global environmental impact, a tenet of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions|Global Impact

“This donation and associated research places CLEAR in a unique position to provide industry and the public with unbiased information about the potential effects of large-scale unconventional oil and gas development on the environment,” MacDonnell said. “This is an example of where the university can support development of responsible energy extraction processes and the associated new technologies needed to improve large-scale industrial processes.”

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 “highest research activity” institution of about 55,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. U.S. News & World Report ranks UTA fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times’ 2016 Best for Vets list. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more, and find UTA rankings and recognition at www.uta.edu/uta/about/rankings.php.

For more on the Strategic Plan, see Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.