Bureau of Economic Geology

Rare Earth Element Concentrations in Produced Water: finding patterns at the part-per-trillion level and deciding what those patterns mean

September 18, 2020 9:00 AM
Charles Nye

Charles Nye, M.S.
Research Scientist
University of Wyoming, Center for Economic Geology Research (CEGR)

Rare Earth Elements (REE) currently attract interest for their economic importance. They were previously used in basic science applications to argue for crustal fractionation, trace sediment transport, and confirm igneous provenance. CEGR, motivated by both economics and basic science, led work showing that REEs occur at measurable levels in salty water deep underground. CEGR also discovered that Rare Earth Elements in this setting commonly adopt a pattern unlike either the ocean or hard-rocks. Because of this new pattern's peculiarities CEGR proposed and published a new normalization based upon Wyoming deep Basin Produced Waters (WBPW). This normalization has allowed us to produce improved interpretations of REE patterns in Wyoming basins. This talk will describe both the events leading to the WBPW, and the conclusions possible from comparing water and rock REE. The talk will end with a short mention of our current work supporting REE extraction work from coal ash.