EXPLORATION AND WELL-SITE SELECTION PROGRAM WEST OF ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO, U.S.A.
William M. Turner, Ph.D.
We, at American Ground Water Consultants (AGW Consultants), were retained by a major
client seeking to develop a national caliber automobile racing facility west of
Albuquerque, New Mexico. The location of the site is shown in Figure
1. No municipal water services exist in the area and there are no plans to
extend water lines to the project. In fact, the extension of lines into the area by the
City of Albuquerque is not planned for many years.
Government planning boards, however, required a proven supply of water for the project
before granting final approval and building permits. We were retained to bring water
to the property.
We proposed to guarantee water to the project in
return for our consulting fees and a royalty payment based on water production. Our
downside was that we would have to acquire water rights and build the pipeline. Our offer
Eighteen miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico the geologic world has changed
drastically from 15,000 feet (5,000 m) of Tertiary, basin-fill, alluvial material of the
Rio Grande rift valley to thousands of feet (1,000s m) of Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks of
the San Juan Basin. The major boundary between the two geologic provinces is the
Nacimiento Fault zone.
From our extensive experience in the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico, we knew
that sandstone aquifer units exist in the Cretaceous stratigraphic section.
We knew that, in 1973, the 11,000-foot (3,750 m) Shell Laguna Wilson Trust #1 oil
and gas exploration well was drilled about one mile (1.6 km) due south of the subject
property. A complete suite of wireline geophysical logs was available. Also,
lithologic logs and scout reports were available for the well.
Lifting the next pipe joint
We also knew that the geology of the area had been mapped in the late 1960's as a
Masters Degree project at the University of New Mexico.
Based on this information, we projected the 128-foot (44 m) thick Gallup Sandstone into
the study area and determined the depth to its top at about 2,500 feet (852 m) below land
surface at the selected well site.
Making up a joint
Our client hired Stewart Brothers Drilling Company of Grants, New Mexico to drill and
construct a test well. Schlumberger was hired to run a complete set of wireline
geophysical logs and a sidewall formation tester and a compensated magnetic resonance
Halliburton was hired to cement 7-5\8, J-55 steel casing to 2,793 feet (952 m).
Halliburton cement trucks.
We encountered the top of the Gallup Sandstone at 2,550 feet (869 m) below land surface
and terminated drilling at 2,793 feet (952 m) below land surface. The well was
logged with a complete suite of geophysical logs to not only determine formation tops but
to determine formation porosity, permeability and water quality. The Gallup
Sandstone is 128 feet (44 m) thick at the well site. Water in the well is under
significant pressure and stands 50 feet (14 m) from the land surface.
We conducted an aquifer performance test using the well. We calculated the
undamaged aquifer transmissivity of about 3,099 gpd/ft (37 m2/).
We expected the quality of the water to be poor and we were not disappointed. It
contains about 11,000 mg/l of total dissolved solids.
Based on the proven quantity of water now available at the site and based on reverse
osmosis technology, governmental approvals were granted.
We performed on our guarantee of water and will begin drawing royalty payments when the
project is constructed and placed into service.
Water produced from the Gallup Sandstone must be treated by reverse osmosis to create
domestic drinking water. The reverse osmosis process creates a reject water that is
higher in total dissolved solid concentration than the water produced from the well.
Some of this water can be used for fire suppression but most of it must be either recycled
or reused or both. Wastewater may even need to be reinjected.
The client plans to use the reject water, first, in an aquaculture project. It
plans to raise shrimp or fish for local and national markets. More saline water from
the aquaculture project will be used in solar, power generation ponds. Initial
estimates are that 100 acres (86 Ha) of shallow, brine ponds can generate 5,000 MW of
power. Finally, as the brine evaporates completely, salts in the water will be
commercially processed and sold into local and national markets.
AGW formed a consortium of companies with international reputations to carry out this