Dec 22, 2013

ODNR visits Greenville to present facts on injection wells

BY RYAN BERRY
MANAGING EDITOR
GREENVILLE – Jim Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), was joined by Rick Simmers, chief of ODNR Division of Oil and Gas, and Scott Kell, geologist for ODNR, for a special meeting on Fracking and Injection Wells with local business, community and government leaders on Dec. 12. The meeting was arranged by Representative Jim Buchy. According to Buchy, representatives from the Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition (WOFAC) were invited, but did not attend. WOFAC has held meetings recently to voice opposition to Fracking and the possibility of establishing Class II Injection Wells in western Ohio.

When asked of the likelihood of a Class II Injection Well being established in Darke County, Zehringer quickly responded, “Not likely.” Simmers added, “The chances of a Class II Injection Well being permitted in Darke County is remote at best.” Zehringer pointed to the cost of transportation as a prohibitive factor. ODNR oversees and permits the Class II Injection Wells and has not received any applications for a well in Darke County.

Zehringer’s staff put to rest rumors that old wells drilled in the area could easily be converted to a Class II Injection Well. Simmers agreed, “You can convert one of these wells.” However, he noted the records on these wells aren’t available because they are from the turn of the century (20th century) and there is no way of determining if the well meets the current Class II standards. “We just don’t have good enough records,” he said.

Simmers and Kell agree this is the safest way to dispose of the brine created as a result of fracking. Prior to standards being put into place 30 years ago, an acceptable form of disposal was in an earthen pit. The brine would be left to disperse on its own through dehydration. Those pits did cause ground water contamination. In 1985 earthen pits were outlawed. In the years since the Class II Injection Well became the mandatory way of disposing of brine, Ohio has had no reports of ground water contamination at a Class II Injection Well.

Kell explained the injection well sits far below the water table. Generally, the aquifer is a couple hundred feet below the surface. The injection well is located approximately 4,000 feet below the surface and under two layers of impermeable rock. The hydraulic fracturing process takes place at least 6,000 feet below the surface and much of the water and chemical additives used in the fracturing process remain at that level. Only 15-20 percent of the brine returns to surface which is stored in steel tanks or lined pits. The brine is then transported to the Class II Injection Well site where even more stringent requirements are in place.

Kell pointed to a diagram of several storage tanks surrounded by a containment dike with several layers of protection. The unloading pad is also protected with an underground storage vault in case of an accident.

The injection casing and injection well are also monitored constantly for problems. Simmers noted a truck carrying oil or gas usually has two layers of protection; the injection casing in a Class II Disposal Well offers four layers, all of which are monitored closely. If one layer shows signs of deteriorating the well is shut down immediately. ODNR will remain on the scene to monitor the situation and will not allow the well to reopen until it has been fixed.

ODNR concedes that approximately 58-percent of the waste injected into Ohio’s wells comes from outside of the state, but believes that number will start to decline.

Rep. Buchy was pleased with the cross section of the community that turned out for the meeting, but hoped members of WOFAC would have attended because of the detailed information given. He admits he didn’t know some of the information previously, but feels he is now better able to speak out when he hears misinformation.

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