Austintown officials consider seismic testing

By Susan Tebben


Trustees are considering allowing a company to do seismic tests for oil and natural gas in Austintown, including the township park.

Ken Nowak, a representative from Front Runner Seismic Inc., recently made a presentation to township trustees. He showed maps of roads around the township where trucks would send vibrations into the roads to analyze and create 3D images of natural gas and other minerals present.

“They’ve given us their assurance that there’s never been damage to structures or roads or anything like that when they’ve done this testing,” said Trustee David Ditzler. “To be quite honest, I don’t see a reason to not do it.”

Front Runner recently was hired by drilling company Halcon Resources Corp. to conduct the tests.

The seismic testing company has been making the rounds to other communities getting approval for testing, from Canfield to areas including southwest Warren, Newton Falls and the east portion of Deerfield.

“We do this so we can understand the depth of the land and the oil and natural gas in the area,” William Dressel, president of Front Runner Seismic, said Tuesday. Dressel likened the tests to an x-ray of a broken arm, to have an image of the area so drilling companies like Halcon know what is happening 5,000 to 10,000 feet underground.

“It’s so that when [companies] drill an oil well, for example, it’s being drilled in the most feasible place to dig a well,” Dressel said.

Another company, Precision Geophysical, was tentatively approved at a trustee meeting in October to do a seismic survey of two township roads in Poland.

But Austintown trustees said they still had some reservations about the Front Runner work and wanted to research it further.

“I’m not as concerned with the trucks so much as actually putting physical charges into the ground,” said Trustee Jim Davis.

Davis said there are some areas where the trustees are concerned about damage, such as the township park.

But Dressel said the cost of the tests is better than the costs of digging wells where they are not economically beneficial, creating the need for more wells to be built.

The average cost of seismic testing the company has done in Northeast Pennsylvania was $75,000 to $125,000. But the benefits, including potential royalties for homeowners where natural gas or oil is found, outweigh the costs of the tests, Dressel said.

“This really is the most environmentally sound way to search for oil and natural gas,” Dressel said.

It is also not a new way to search, merely an old way to find wells that has just been improved by 3D imagery and other technology. “We’re not inventing seismic testing,” Dressel said. “Hundreds and hundreds of millions of square miles have been tested in Canada and the United States and it’s been done since the 1930s.”

Because of the concerns and the fact that a new trustee will be chosen to fill Ditzler’s spot on the board, Davis said the board will probably wait until the first of the year to take any action on the testing.

“We’re far from ready to go through that process,” Davis said.

During the meeting last week, Trustee Lisa Oles requested references from other communities to find out if they had received any complaints about testing. “We are not going to make a decision until we receive the information I requested,” Oles said.

She was also wary about the company having only been in business since 2009, she said. But she had been assured that no damage to foundations had occurred and that the company had insurance for any damage that could occur.

During the presentation, Nowak discussed having a public meeting to get input from citizens about the project.

“I was pleased to hear about a public meeting,” Davis said. “I want to make sure we have one held in our township.”

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