Message from Director John Baza – Winter 2018

Much has been said over the years about the Energy–Water nexus, meaning that it takes energy to develop water for consumption and it takes water to develop energy resources. Whether it is coal mining, copper mining, or oil and gas drilling, it seems that water and energy development must coexist. 

At a recent Uinta Basin Oil and Gas Collaborative Group (UBOGCG) meeting held in Duchesne, the theme of the meeting was oilfield produced water. Several qualified speakers gave presentations on the management of water that is produced from oilfields in Utah during the process of extracting hydrocarbons from deep petroleum reservoirs in the Uinta Basin. The meeting was well attended, illustrating the interest garnered by the topic. For me, the meeting highlighted how little attention has been given in the past to putting this water to some kind beneficial use.

Oilfield water is produced in abundance out of petroleum reservoirs. For Utah oil wells, the production ratio of water to oil is 6:1 or higher – meaning that for every barrel of oil produced, there are six barrels of water. This is water that has remained in place with the hydrocarbons for eons, and it is generally brackish or mineral-laden, so for the most part it is unusable for human consumption or agriculture. 

In the past, it has been a waste management problem for oil producers with most operators either disposing of the produced water or recycling the water for enhanced recovery operations or injection stimulation of oil production in other wells. But recycling has only accounted for a portion of the produced water and historically, much of it has been reinjected back into underground formations that already contain unusable water. 

In Utah, there might be over 20,000 acre-feet of produced water that must be managed and/or disposed.  If even a small portion could displace fresh water use in industrial or residential processes not requiring fresh water, then there could be great benefit by allowing fresh water to move toward other consumptive purposes.

There have been efforts in the recent past to characterize the quantity and quality of produced water, most relevant to Utah operators is the report by the Utah Geological Survey entitled “Produced Water in the Uinta Basin, Utah: Evaluation of Reservoirs, Water Storage Aquifers, and Management Options.”  This report was described at the recent UBOGCG meeting, and it should serve as a valuable tool to the petroleum industry for operations in Utah.

Another study underway is being led by the Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, representing state government interests across the U.S. for groundwater regulation and protection matters. This study was initiated in July 2017 with a kickoff meeting in Salt Lake City and subsequent discussions in Oklahoma City; Boston, Massachusetts; and an upcoming meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The purpose of the study is to provide the current regulatory landscape and state of scientific knowledge relative to produced water management and re-use.  It is organized in three modules: (1) the legal and regulatory framework; (2) industry infield re-use; and (3) re-use opportunities outside of the oilfield. The leaders of the individual modules are proceeding to use subject matter experts to draft portions of the study that is expected for publication in early 2019.

Clearly, some of the best minds in the country are pondering this situation, and it is my greatest hope that better uses for oilfield produced water can be found for the benefit of all Utah citizens.

2018 Calendars Available

Each year the Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) Program creates a calendar highlighting the history of mining in Utah. The calendar is part of the fourth grade education program focusing on abandoned mine safety.

This year’s calendar features historic Spring Canyon, located west of Helper, Utah.  This once bustling area was home to more than 1,000 residents, included a hospital, school, and even a swimming pool. Historic photographs and descriptions provide a glimpse back in time highlighting the highs and lows of living and working in a coal mining town. 

If you’re interested in a free calendar, please send your mailing address to 

Call for Environmental Excellence Award Nominations

The Board of Oil, Gas and Mining is accepting nominations for 2018 Environmental Excellence Awards now through Wednesday, February 28. 
Previously known as Earth Day Awards, Environmental Excellence Awards recognize reclamation projects and innovations in environmental technology going above and beyond what is required by regulation. It is an opportunity for companies to demonstrate technical expertise, pride in their industry, and concern not only for the economics of their industry, but also for our environment. 

Awards may be presented in each of three operation types:

  • Oil and gas
  • Minerals mining
  • Coal mining

Award categories:

  • Environmental improvement to an active mine site, exploration site or producing field.
  • Outstanding results following applications of innovative environmental technology.
  • Outstanding final reclamation or site restoration. 

Criteria may include but are not limited to:

  • Stabilization and grading
  • Revegetation
  • Water quality improvement
  • Wildlife habitat improvement
  • Exceptional reclamation/restoration without obligation
  • Outstanding results from implementing environmental technologies

For nomination forms and instructions, visit Submit nominations to

Minerals Program Map

Minerals Program staff and Division GIS coordinator created an interactive GIS-based map featuring all active and retired hard rock mine permits throughout the state. The map is located on the Minerals homepage

Visitors to the site can use tools to determine mine location, land owner, operator, mine type, township, section, range, geology, and wildlife habitat. Another feature allows users to calculate the mine acreage and verify operation is within permit limits. 

Tutorials on how to use the mapping features are available on the website. These tools are intended to provide users more in-depth information on Utah’s mineral operations and education them on mines near them. 

The minerals program regulates all non-coal mining operations in the state with a few exceptions. From Kennecott Copper, the largest open-mined pit in the state to small operations, staff works to ensure mining operation procedures are followed. This includes verifying operators work within permit boundaries, mining operations pose no threat to public safety or the environment and assuring appropriate fees/bonds are collected for reclamation.

Utah contains over 500 different minerals and ore deposits that hold close to 30 different metals including copper, gold, and silver. Currently there are 600 permitted mineral operations statewide. In 2015 data from the U.S. Geological Survey ranked Utah 8th in the value of non-fuel mineral production, accounting for approximately 3.7 percent of the United States total.

Employee Highlight – Winter 2018

Priscilla Burton is an environmental scientist in the Coal Program and has worked for the Division for 21 years. She is based out of the Price Field Office.

Priscilla is a soil scientist working with an interdisciplinary team of environmental scientists. Her main responsibility is to ensure that there is suitable quality and quantity of topsoil salvaged, stockpiled, and protected for use in final reclamation of coal operations.

She inspects sites under construction to confirm salvage and replacement plans are followed and also completes routine mine inspections to ensure compliance with all Utah coal mining rules. 

Priscilla was the project manager for the successful White Oak mine reclamation project where she was able to leverage the available bond forfeiture funds with contributions from Carbon County and Canyon Fuel. She applied for and received grants from the Division of Water Quality for the transport and application of biosolids to reclaimed slopes; the Utah Watershed Initiative for reconstruction of Eccles Creek and erosion control; and Department of Agriculture for two Invasive Species Mitigation grants for the control of weeds from Whiskey to Clear Creek. 

She helps ensure responsible resource development and preservation of the environment by making sure topsoil needed for final reclamation is protected. Topsoil contains the required organic matter, nutrients and microbes that vegetation needs for growth. Successful vegetation growth is one key measurement of effective reclamation.

Priscilla feels a sense of accomplishment knowing that when a Utah coal mining permit is issued, the mining operation has a plan for successful reclamation. She has been involved with many reclamation projects including Des Bee Dove, Starpoint, Willow Creek, and perhaps the most visible Castle Gate refuse pile on Highway 6 north of Helper.

In addition to her responsibilities with the coal program, Priscilla has represented the Division as a member of the Skyline Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) since 2013. The Skyline CWMA is a collaborative effort of agencies and private landowners who determine the most effective ways to eliminate noxious and invading weeds. She produces the CWMA annual weed control calendar and has developed graphic design and desktop publishing skills.

Priscilla has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Soil Science from the University of Maryland and a Master of Science Degree in Plant Biology from Utah State University. She is a Certified Professional Soil Scientist (Soil Science Society of America) and has a long list of Office of Surface Mining technology development and transfer courses.


Do you have a topic you’d like discussed or feedback for our staff? If so, please email We welcome your comments.

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Salt Lake City, Utah 84114