Drilling Down

Permits Sought for 2 Injection Wells in Brookfield

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – The subsidiary of a Houston-based company has applied for permits to drill two new wastewater injection wells in Trumbull County, according to records filed with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“Right now, we’re reviewing two applications,” said ODNR spokesman Steve Irwin. “There is an initial review to make sure they’ve submitted the appropriate information.”

The company, Highland Field Services LLC, is a subsidiary of Seneca Resources Inc. with offices near Pittsburgh. Highland plans to develop two injection wells in Brookfield Township.

Seneca Resources is the exploration and production arm of Houston-based National Fuel Gas Co., which develops and produces oil and natural gas reserves in California, Kansas and the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Highland Field Services applied for permits Jan. 19 to develop two wastewater injection wells — named No. 1 and No. 5 – on land west of state Route 7, north of Warren-Sharon Road, or “Old 82,” and south of Merwin Chase Road, according to documents filed with ODNR.

Once the applications are reviewed, ODNR holds a public comment period and, barring any issues, would award a permit to drill, Irwin said. Then, the site would have to comply with regulations that govern seismic monitoring and surface construction before ODNR’s oil and gas division chief would authorize an order to allow injecting.

Just how long the process would take depends on how fast the company operates and whether it has complied fully with ODNR rules, Irwin said.

Brookfield Township Trustee Gary Lees said officials were unaware that Highland was planning new injection wells within the township.

“We heard some rumors, but didn’t know which company or any names,” he said.

The proposed injection wells are near an existing well that American Energy Associates Inc. drilled several years ago. However, that well was never placed into commission, and the company has applied for a plug permit, records show.

The Highland wells are the first two permit applications received in 2017, ODNR’s Irwin said, who noted that the number of permit applications has declined over the last three years.

In 2014, for example, ODNR received 18 permit applications for injection wells across the state. In 2015, ODNR accepted 17, and in 2016, just four applications were received, he said.

Irwin said that there are 217 active Class II injection wells across the state, 17 of which are in Trumbull County. Another five injection wells are active in Mahoning County.

These wells are used to store contaminated wastewater generated from oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. Since oil and gas drilling in the Utica and Marcellus shale plays took off in 2009, the need to dispose of contaminated wastewater increased, leading to more Class II injection wells in Ohio.

Activists have raised concerns over the presence of injection wells in the community, most notably because of a 2011 New Years Eve earthquake that measured 4.0 on the Richter scale. That quake and many earlier smaller ones were tied to an injection well operated by now defunct D&L Energy in Youngstown. The operator used excessive pressure and likely lubricated a fault line in the basement rock about 9,000 feet below the surface of the earth, triggering the quake.

The earthquakes spurred ODNR to impose a moratorium on injection well activity within a five-mile radius of the D&L well. Some wells outside that circumference, however, have been given the green light to move forward.

A North Lima well once owned by D&L began injection activity in October 2015. In September 2016, ODNR issued a permit allowing injection for a well in Vienna Township near the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. The well, known as the B&J well, is owned by KTCA Holdings based in Oklahoma City.

Small tremors were tied to another injection well operated by American Water Management Services Inc. in Weathersfield Township. That operation was ordered shut down by ODNR chief Richard Simmers and has yet to reopen. However, a Franklin County court ruled last month that the order to suspend activities at the well is “not in accordance with reason” and that there is “no factual basis” for keeping the well closed.

There are no records of Seneca Resources or Highland Field Services operating an injection well in Ohio, so the Brookfield venture would be its first wells in the state.

In December, Seneca Resources received a permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to drill an injection well in Highland Township, Elk County, about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.