Shallow gases abundant in ND, study continuesIn the early 1900s, settlers in North Dakota tapped into shallow gases to light and heat their homes. Now geologists are conducting studies to see if these gases could be used as a resource.
By: By April Baumgarten, The Dickinson Press
In the early 1900s, settlers in North Dakota tapped into shallow gases to light and heat their homes. Now geologists are conducting studies to see if these gases could be used as a resource.
“Historically, what has happened when people have developed in rural areas they found shallow gases in their water wells and used them as a resource to power lights,” North Dakota Geologist Fred Anderson said.
Anderson, who works for the Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck, said this occurred in the 1800s in the southeastern part of the state, and there have been reports of shallow gases across the state since.
The North Dakota Geological Survey has screened 905 shallow gas occurrences in 52 out of 53 counties in North Dakota, according to a January newsletter put out by Anderson.
“To find such a wide spread of shallow gas across the state is a revelation,” state Geologist Ed Murphy said from Bismarck. “If we found enough of it with high quality we could pump it into a pipeline.”
Conducting screening studies on shallow gases is relatively new, Anderson said. Other states have compiled information and stories, but North Dakota is one of the first states to explores shallow gases.
Shallow gas research has not been conducted in Sioux County. One reason for this is because of administrative issues.
“We didn’t get to sit down with them to get to the provisions,” Murphy said. “We just ran out of time.”
Murphy said special equipment had to be shipped in to drill for methane and other shallow gases. He estimated the cost of the study to be between $75,000 and $100,000.
“We have been conducting investigations since 2005 and continue to investigate to determine what is out there,” Anderson said.
Shallow gases are natural gases found less than 5,000 feet underground. They are in water wells and near coal deposits. Anderson said there may be a connection between coal veins and shallow gases in western North Dakota.
“Coal veins serve as a source of bacteria for methane,” Anderson said. “We have found several shallow gas deposits near coal.”
“Primarily, coal bed methane is a higher grade shallow gas,” Murphy said. “This can be found anywhere west of the Missouri River.”
Though time was an issue for the project, Murphy said the progress and research was very beneficial.
Anderson said there is the possibility that shallow gas could be harmful, but hasn’t found any significant finds to cause this.
“If it is in high amounts and it is in a closed area, there is a danger of it being explosive,” he said. “So far, there haven’t been any occurrences of that nature.”
North Dakota Department of Health Environmental Geologist Kris Roberts said it depends on how much methane is in the water.
“I haven’t heard of it having any health effects,” Roberts said.
Anderson said the research is in the primary phases. While he remains hopeful, the chances of using shallow gases as a resource remain low.
“So far we haven’t determined if it could have an economical impact,” Anderson said.
“It is always beneficial when you can do first point research to a general degree,” Murphy said. “Whether we continue on to do specific area hasn’t been decided.”