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The Utah Geological Survey is getting $800,000 in grant funds from the Department of Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory to research water issues as they relate to conventional oil and gas recovery, along with potential oil shale development in Utah.

The UGS announced Wednesday that the study will be done by the University of Utah, Colorado School of Mines and several industry partners operating in the Uinta Basin. The goals are to alleviate "problems associated with produced water as a means to facilitate increased conventional hydrocarbon production and resolving environmental barriers to possible oil shale development," a UGS statement reads.

The research will look at four areas:

• Saline water disposal problems that hinder oil and natural gas development;

• How saline water disposal from conventional petroleum development might create technical and economic hurdles for prospective oil shale industry;

• Baseline surface- and groundwater information that could be used by oil shale development companies, and;

• Water produced from simulated in-situ (minimal surface disturbance) oil shale extraction technologies and measure its potential effect on Uinta Basin aquifers.

One of the big unanswered questions for critics of tapping into an estimated 800 billion recoverable barrels of oil from the tri-state Green River formation, which includes Utah, is how much water will be required for production and the footprint that large-scale shale production will have on water quality.