A study of the sediments building up in Missouri River reservoirs shows many tons of that material could be used in the oil and gas industry for fracking.
The study, coordinated by Nathan Schaepe with the U.S. Geological Survey, looked at sediment deposits in the upper end of Lewis & Clark Lake, near where the Niobrara River flows in.
“We do have all of the grain sizes that would be of interest to those same industries,” Schaepe says. “The data is available so if people want to evaluate it based on looking at some other industry, it’s definitely possible.”
Schaepe says most of the sediment flows in from the Nebraska Sand Hills and it’s rapidly filling in the western end of the lake.
“We know about 60% is estimated as coming from the Niobrara River and about 5-million tons annually,” he says.
While marketing the sediment to the oil and gas industry for fracking may sound lucrative, Schaepe says it’s not reliable.
“Five years ago, North Dakota was crazy booming and it’s just now starting to come back a little bit, but a couple of years ago it was down in the dumps,” Schaepe says. “People were heading out of there faster than they got there. Relying on the oil and gas industry is not something I’d put a lot of stock into.”
Schaepe says other challenges include how to remove the sand and how to transport it.
The report was part of the annual meeting of the Missouri Sedimentation Action Coalition.
By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton