Drilling Down

Permit Expires for Brookfield Injection Well

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – One of the first permits awarded to an injection well development underway in the township has expired, but work on another well is in its completion stages.

“We’ll begin preparation for testing next week,” said Rob Boulware, spokesman for Highland Field Services LLC, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Seneca Resources. The company has drilled one well– the No. 5 well – and should begin completion work soon at the site, just off of state Route 7 in the township.

However, a permit for another wastewater injection well that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources approved for the site has since expired, and the company would have to reapply for the permit a second time, Boulware said.

He said the company let the permit expire because it wanted to drill a single well first, test it to see if it is viable, and then make a final decision on whether to move forward and drill three other wells whose permits are active.

“We’ll go through the process of completing that well and testing it,” he said. “Then, we’ll make a determination.”

Highland Field Services was awarded permits to drill five Class II injection wells on land west of state Route 7 and just south of Merwin-Chase Road. Two of these permits – for wells No. 1 and No. 5 — were issued in June 2017, but Highland began drilling just one, and let the permit for No. 1 expire last month.

The permit to drill is good for one year, and comes attached with 18 specific conditions that the company must meet before the well is approved for operation. These mandates include construction specifications, seismic monitoring, and downhole testing.

In March, ODNR approved permits for Highland to drill three additional injection wells at the site. Those permits won’t expire until March 2019.

Testing on the No. 5 well could begin shortly after preparation work is finished, Boulware said. “We’ll inject fresh water under pressure to see if it holds.”

Class II injection wells are used to store wastewater generated from oil and gas drilling operations. Water produced from hydraulic fracturing operations and well production is contaminated, and must be disposed of by being injected thousands of feet below the surface or recycled.

The wells have elicited backlash from within the community, since many are concerned that they pose a threat to public health and safety.

Injection wells in Ohio and other states have been linked to earthquakes, the most notable being a 4.0 level quake recorded on New Year’s Eve 2011. The quake was triggered by a Class II injection well in Youngstown, and the well has since shut down.

There are more than 200 Class II injection wells in operation across Ohio.

Yet that Highland Field Services has allowed one of the well permits to expire is a welcome development to those who would like to see the operation shut down altogether.

“I would hope that the company thinks that this is a really bad idea to place them here so close to homes,” said Jane Spies, a member of the group FrackFree America, which seeks to stop hydraulic fracturing and the use of injection wells. “The best case would be for ODNR to revoke all of the permits.”

The No. 1 well, Spies said, is the well that is positioned closest to the Wyngate Manor mobile home park – a development of about 240 lots.

To locate an injection well so close to a residential development is akin to “gambling with public health and safety,” Spies says. “This is astonishing – it’s right next to where people live,” she says of the injection wells.

Spies expressed optimism that allowing a permit to expire signals that the company might have second thoughts over drilling injection wells in this area, since a similar project funded by another company on land just south off of Route 7 was abandoned several years ago.

“We can’t let this happen here,” she said. “It will destroy the quality of life in the community.”

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.