Drilling Down

Volumes of Drilling Wastewater Rising in Ohio

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Injection wells across Ohio accepted a record 28.8 million barrels of wastewater from drilling operations last year, despite a slowdown in oil and gas exploration in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and compiled by Teresa Mills show that the volume of wastewater disposed of in Class II injection wells in 2015 was 27.2% higher than in 2013.

Mills is an Ohio-based activist with the Buckeye Forest Council and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

“I thought for a while that with the decrease in oil and gas production that these numbers would drop,” Mills said. “It didn’t happen that way.”

That’s because production of oil and gas continues to grow from the wells already drilled and being placed into production. Once in production, wells continue to produce wastewater along with oil and gas.

In this region, Trumbull County was ranked eighth in wastewater volume with 1.9 million barrels injected in 2015. “In 2014, Trumbull was the second-highest,” she said. “Since then, several wells have closed down.”

Kleese Development, Heckman Water Sources, American Energy Associates, American Water Management Services, Broadstreet Energy LLC, Nuverra/Heckman, and Big Sky Energy all reported brine disposal activity throughout the county last year.

Mahoning County was ranked 22nd in volume of wastewater accepted during 2015, unchanged from the previous year, Mills reports. Last year, Mahoning County’s Class II wells accepted 167,742 barrels of wastewater injected by Brineaway Inc., White Energy and North Lima Disposal.

Injection well operations in the Mahoning Valley have been greatly curtailed since a series of earthquakes in 2011 was tied to the operation of a Class II injection well in Youngstown. Two years ago, an American Water Management Systems’ injection well in Weathersfield Township in Trumbull County was shut down because of minor seismic activity. That order to cease is under appeal.

As of Feb. 8, Ohio reported 214 active injection wells, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Another 18 have been drilled or are being drilled, while ODNR has issued permits for 13 new Class II wells.

Athens County was first in wastewater storage last year with four million barrels, according to the data. Second-highest was Coshocton County with 3.7 million barrels and Guernsey County third at three million barrels.

According to the data, 12.9 million barrels of wastewater were generated outside the state. Athens County’s injection wells, for example, accepted 3.8 million barrels last year that came mostly from West Virginia. Just 298,000 barrels of wastewater injected in the county were generated in Ohio.

“We still have a lot of waste coming in from out of state,” Mills said. “My concern is that we’re going to see more and more releases like these.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.