The Use of Iodine to Characterize Formation Waters in Oil and Gas Fields

Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Earth Sciences


Zunli Lu


Aqueous Geochemistry, Formation water, Halogens, Iodine Geochemistry, Junggar Basin, Marcellus Shale

Subject Categories

Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Hydrologists and geochemists commonly use the solutes chloride and bromide and their ratio to distinguish sources of salinity in waters. These halogens neither precipitate from solution nor react with aquifer minerals and ideally can trace solute migration in both surface and ground waters. However, where bromide and chloride ratios are similar in multiple aquifers, it can be difficult distinguishing water sources from wells that tap them. Similarly, discriminating waters produced with hydrocarbons from only bromide and chloride concentrations can be difficult if the origin of salinity is the essentially the same (e.g. evaporation of sea water or fresh water). This thesis explores how to characterize formation waters within both a non-marine hydrocarbon producing basin and a marine sourced hydrocarbon basin by using a combination of halogens and stable water isotopes.

Chapter 1 explores interpretation of the chemical composition of samples of water collected with oil produced from lake derived Triassic-aged Karamay (T2k) and Jurassic-aged Badaowan (J1b) and Qigu (J3q) formations in the northwestern margin of the Junggar Basin, located in western China, Scatter plots of deuterium (2H) and Oxygen-18 (18O ) isotopes of oil-field waters from this basin show a trend below and deviating to the right of modern evaporated surface waters in the region, which may reflect paleoevaporation from ancient Junggar Lake from which oil derived. Br/I ratios from the waters produced with oil separate formation waters and identify lacustrine (Br/I from 2.9 to 8.2) from marine origins (Br/I from 1.2 to 2.4). The Br/I ratios can also show where formation waters from multiple formations naturally mix or mix in production wells.

Environmental concerns regarding the potential for shallow aquifer contamination has led to controversy on hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus formation in the Appalachian Basin. Chapter two of this thesis explores how bromide and iodide ratios I measured from 60 shallow ground water samples in the southern Tier of New York suggest that solutes potentially derived from deep organic rich Marcellus formation water can be distinguished by Br/I ratios. Water with a Br/I ratio of ∼19 are consistent with that associated with Marcellus shale production waters whereas higher or lower Br/I ratios may suggest a different organic rich source rock.

Combined, the work on iodide and other halogens in China and southern New York highlight the potential value of iodide as an environmental tracer associated with oil and gas production in general.


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