By Karl Henkel
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will require owners of a new brine-injection well to run a special test to ensure that brine is being injected into the correct underground formations.
Brine is a byproduct of fracking, a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.
The Vindicator obtained a copy of a D&L Energy Inc. permit for its Coitsville injection well, under construction on U.S. Route 422 next to The Purple Cat.
The permit requires D&L to run a radioactive tracer test, which will determine whether brine is going into the correct underground formations.
Permeable underground rock formations such as the Mount Simon or the Knox formations, thousands of feet underground, are prime spots for brine injection. Impermeable formations such as the Precambrian, which starts at about 9,000 feet below the ground, are not ideal formations.
The test is required for all wells injecting into the Mount Simon formation, the layer directly above the Precambrian.
The Coitsville well is targeted for a depth of about 9,300 feet, according to the permit, a few hundred feet deeper than the company’s Youngstown well site.
Other provisions in the permit for the Coitsville well include a double-walled injection pipeline because of the “close proximity to surface bodies of water ... to ensure the containment of fluids.”
“As you’re moving into different counties, different townships, the depths of geological formations change,” said Tom Tomastik, an ODNR geologist.
Tomastik said wells need what he called “rat hole” space of about 60 to 100 feet into the Precambrian formation, not as an injection zone, but “in case something drops down the well or in case there is fill up in the bottom,” he said.
D&L recently conducted a radioactive tracer test on its well on Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown, but that test could not determine if brine has been injected into the Precambrian formation.
According to ODNR documents, D&L left the bottom of the well uncapped, to be used as an injection zone.
As a result, Tomastik said, the environmental regulator will require D&L to cement the bottom 250 feet of that well to “alleviate any perceived [earthquake] accusations.”
D&L officials did not respond to a request to comment.
ODNR has studied the link between the D&L Youngstown injection well and eight Mahoning Valley earthquakes — including seven that have had epicenters near the well.