Injection Wells Prepare for Operation in Trumbull
WEATHERSFIELD TOWNSHIP -- After almost two years of inactivity, the injection well business is back on track in the Mahoning Valley.
Two injection wells intended to store drilling wastewater should be running at full speed in Trumbull County by early next year, and more are planned for the near future, say operators.
“We’re not officially open yet,” says Bob Barnett, geologist and owner of American Energy Associates Inc., Cortland. “But, we’re taking some of the water from Clinton wells, and everything looks good so far.”
Barnett’s company is putting the final touches on an injection well in Greene Township, while another company, American Water Management Services LLC, is in the process of drilling its first well just off state Route 169 in Weathersfield.
At the same time, Kleese Development of Warren has permits to operate two other injection wells slated for Vienna Township, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
No new injection well permits have been issued in Mahoning County since D&L Energy Corp. was awarded four permits in the county in 2011. There are no permits for injection wells in Columbiana County, according to ODNR records.
American Energy drilled its first wastewater injection well earlier this year, and Barnett says it’s been a challenge to get to a point where the site can actually begin to handle water. “The first one you do from scratch is a bit of a learning curve,” he laughs. “One of our problems was that the power system wasn’t adequate.”
Storage tanks are in place and are operational, Barnett said, while the power-generating system is now solved. “We’re working on getting some contracts lined up,” he said, while plans are in the early stages for two more wells, one in Trumbull and the other in Ashtabula County.
Injection wells have become a standard method of disposing contaminated wastewater generated from hydraulic fracturing, a process that injects water, sand and chemicals into the well at high pressure to break up shale rock thousands of feet below the earth’s surface. Once broken, the shale surrenders hydrocarbons that have been trapped inside the rock for millions of years.
However, excess water from each well -- a single well can use as much as six million gallons to fracture the rock -- is contaminated by the smattering of chemicals used in the process and needs to be properly disposed of.
Since 1983, the solution in Ohio is to pump the wastewater -- commonly called “brine” in the oil and gas industry -- into the Class II disposal wells throughout the state. Approximately 180 injection wells are operational across Ohio.
Steve Kilper, vice president of American Water, a division of Howland-based Avalon Holdings Inc., reports drilling at his company's Weathersfield site began on Saturday. This particular well will be about 4,600 feet deep and requires five steel casings reinforced with four layers of concrete.
“Total drilling and casing will take about 14 to 16 days,” Kilper reports. “I’m shooting for January,” to have the well operational.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has required the company to place micro-seismic monitoring devices around the new well, and American Water is working on access agreements right now. The company would absorb the cost of the seismic testing, Kilper noted. “We’re paying for it and they’re using the data.”
Seismic monitoring was first installed around D&L Energy Corp.’s Northstar #1 well -- the well that gained infamy when it was discovered that the operators drilled through the pre-Cambrian basement rock, disturbed a fault line, and triggered a series of earthquakes that rocked the Valley mostly through 2011.
The quakes ignited a debate about the safety of Class II injection wells and the potential threats of hydraulic fracturing.
Avalon Holdings Chairman Ron Klingle recently told The Business Journal that American Water is interested in acquiring at least two of D&L's former well sites, including one in North Lima.
D&L filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. An auction to sell off the company's assets is scheduled for Nov. 13 in Cleveland, and a hearing to approve asset sales is set for Nov. 19 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Youngstown.
In the wake of the Youngstown tremors, the state of Ohio tightened regulations regarding the development of injection wells, including seismic monitoring and caps on the drilling depths of injection wells. Also, the state temporarily imposed a moratorium on injection wells near the epicenter of the quakes.
“We’ll do background testing for about two months,” Kilper said. “Then, after we start injecting, we’ll monitor that data.”
The Weathersfield well is to have seismic data retrieved before and after the injection process begins. This way, geologists can better measure any seismic activity or anomalies that may occur after water is injected into the formation, he said.
On Wednesday, trucks were hauling pipe and equipment to the rig site, just north of the Niles Commerce Park.
A second well, permitted just 113 feet away from the initial well, is slated for drilling in the near future, Kilper said. “That’s the intention. It takes a little while to put this puzzle together.”
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