The Geochemistry of Produced Waters from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, USA


Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas production. The chemistry of produced water may provide information about the source of the fluid and its evolution, leading to an improved understanding of the hydrology of petroleum systems. In this study, samples from 19 wells from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) in Mississippi and Louisiana, USA were analyzed for their major and trace element compositions. Data obtained from produced waters from the TMS were compared to existing chemical data from produced waters collected from nearby hydrocarbon reservoir rocks within the Gulf Coast Basin. The results show that produced waters from the TMS are highly saline, with a mean concentration of 15.9 g/L of total dissolved solids. Comparison of the chemistry of produced water from the TMS to early flowback waters demonstrated a rapid shift from the more dilute fracturing fluid to the formation water endmember composition. Most of the trace metals showed a moderate to strong correlation with the overall salinity of the waters. Concentrations of Cu and V showed a moderate correlation with the amount of oil produced from the TMS wells, suggesting that these elements are strongly affiliated with the kerogen and subsequent dissolved ( < 0.45 µm) organic phases. Analysis of the volume of produced water compared to the volume of water used during hydraulic fracturing indicates that 15%-110% of the water volume used for fracking had been returned to the surface over the 2-5 year production period of the sampled wells. Chloride to bromide ratios suggest that the formation water in the TMS was derived from evaporated seawater. Comparison to historical data for produced waters in other formations in and around the Mississippi Salt Basin showed that waters in all the formations had a consistent origin (bitterns likely derived from the formation of the Louann salt). This implies that over geologic time periods fluids migrated through the TMS despite its low permeability present-day. The TMS also exhibited lower concentrations of dissolved transition metals such as Zn and Pb relative to those described in adjacent formations. This observation may suggest the presence of larger amounts of H2S, limiting the solubility of sulfide phases, in the shale unit relative to adjacent reservoir units.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Research Center/Lab(s)

Center for Research in Energy and Environment (CREE)

Keywords and Phrases

Brine; Formation water; Fracking; Metals; Produced water; TMS; Tuscaloosa

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2020 The Authors, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2020