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Injection wells not new to Valley, so why are we all shook up

Published: Sun, January 8, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

RELATED: Public and private meetings to address geology, regulatory issues related to well

By Karl Henkel



THE MISCONCEPTIONS SURROUNDING the natural gas and oil industry aren’t limited to fracking.

There is confusion regarding injection wells, the caboose of the fracking process.

Not all injection wells are created equal.

As the earthquake speculation has swollen around Youngstown-based D&L Energy Inc., the company and state officials have maintained that Ohio has 176 other wells managed by many other companies that have buried brine for decades with few issues.

One such company is Warren-based Kleese Development Associates, owners of two new wells in Vienna Township.

They have more traditional wells, which reach depths of about 4,700 feet.

But newer wells, spawned by the recent oil and gas drilling frenzy, reach depths twice the distance.

To put it simply, the D&L wells aren’t your father’s wells.

To extract gas and oil, a mixture of water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rock thousands of feet below the ground, unlocking the gas and oil. That’s fracking. And drilling companies use about 4 million gallons of water to frack an average well, or about the same amount a golf course uses during a midsummer week.

Of those gallons, about 20 percent of that brine resurfaces and has to be disposed of underground, never to be used again. That water ends up at injection wells — the business of D&L.

The D&L wells inject brine deeper than most in Ohio, and in quantities greater than ever imagined.

And the driving force behind these new-age wells?

The demand for injection sites because of the increased drilling activities in the Marcellus and Utica shales.

“It’s not new. It may be new to this area, simply because of the volumes of water that needs to be disposed of,” said Paul Kleese of Kleese Development. “There hasn’t been a need to inject these kinds of volumes.”

Companies such as D&L have spent millions of dollars to capitalize on the brine-disposal opportunity.

D&L, in business since 1986, spends more money on one well than similar companies spend on three.

Ben Lupo, owner and CEO of D&L, told The Vindicator that each injection well costs about $4 million to build.

D&L, aside from its original Youngstown well, which began operations in December 2010, plans to have operations in Youngstown, Girard, Campbell, Coitsville, Hubbard, Springfield Township, Beaver Township and in Columbiana County in East Liverpool, Fairfield and Elk Run townships.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources already has permitted D&L wells in Girard, Campbell, Coitsville and Beaver Township as of Dec. 1, according to ODNR records.

Other well owners, such as Kleese, aren’t spending nearly as much.

In fact, Kleese spent about one-third as much on two wells in Vienna Township.

Those wells are former gas-producing wells. Many nonproducing gas wells can be reformatted as injection wells.

D&L injected, on average, about 2,000 barrels of brine a day before the state shut down its Youngstown site Dec. 30.

Kleese injects between 500 and 1,000 barrels per day. There are 42 gallons in one barrel.

D&L’s wells travel as much as 9,300 feet deep.

Kleese’s wells are about 4,700 feet deep, according to ODNR records.

D&L injects brine at pressures of up to 2,500 pounds per square inch.

Kleese injects brine at one-third that pressure.

The demand for injection capacity is the reason D&L has applied for permits that allow wells to inject brine into the Mount Simon sandstone geological formation, which in eastern Ohio is more than 9,000 feet deep.

“If you’re going to spend the kind of money D&L spent, you’ve got to dispose of that high volume of water,” Kleese told The Vindicator.

“[The Mount Simon is] where you drill if you want a well specifically designed for disposal.”

It’s true. Geologists say the Mount Simon is a great formation for brine disposal.

Unless it’s in eastern Ohio.

The average porosity — open pore space in a rock — of the Mount Simon in western and central Ohio is about 13 percent, which are “very high compared to most of Ohio’s oil and gas reservoir rocks,” according to ODNR.

But even ODNR admits that in eastern Ohio, the formation isn’t as viable an injection formation as in other parts of the state, calling eastern Ohio’s Mount Simon “less suited for use as an injection unit.”

The porosity in eastern Ohio is 8 percent, according to ODNR.

The Mount Simon, which in Ohio ranges from 44 to more than 300 feet in thickness, according to ODNR, has a much larger capacity volume than say, the Clinton, the formation into which Kleese injects brine.

As a result, Kleese, though spending a third of the money on a well, accepts only about one-third of the brine.

“We’ve invested money for future, not for existing production,” he said. “We probably won’t be able to inject as long. The Clinton formations have the ability to fill up.”

But in D&L’s case, it is — or was — a race to the bottom.

And the company has cashed in.

Lupo told The Vindicator that the company generated about $16,000 a day off its Youngstown well, which means it took only 250 days of full-force production to match the $4 million originally spent on the well, minus expenses and taxes.

Taxes are a big part of the brine equation.

The state now imposes a 5-cent per-barrel tax on in-state brine and a 20-cent per-barrel tax on out-of-state brine.

Wells such as those owned by D&L can earn the state up to $100,000 in annual tax revenues. Wells such as those owned by Kleese Associates bring the state about a third of that total.

The state, through the first nine months of 2011, raked in $1 million as a result of the brine tax. That money, state officials have told The Vindicator, will be used to grow ODNR’s well-inspector roster, which at the end of 2011 had about 30 members.


1CassAnn(252 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

As if Youngstown wasn't enough of a cesspool to begin with.. now they are injecting waste there.

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2Superstar7(122 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Before Hubbard, cover YOUR land with these wells. Allow the run-off to cover YOUR property, enter YOUR water table. Once you use your well water to make drinks for YOUR family, have YOUR children wash, take showers in the radiation laced brine, once everything your eat, touch, breath is contaminated with brine, then we will move on to every member of your family. Once their land & all their water in contaminated, THEN consider Hubbard. Oh...by then, we'll have empirical data to further prove that the risks FAR outweigh the benefits.
Sell the gas & oil, but DON'T dispose radiation contaminated brine into our drinking water. Pennsylvania stopped this when they determined they could not dispose of this brine without contaminating the surrounding areas. (They first tried dumping in rivers, then through sewage systems-every attempt generated permanent public contamination.)

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3Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Just a question
Why can"t they reuse the brine to pump down to wells . Why can they only use it one time ?

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4Attis(1129 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"A race to the bottom". Indeed. How much deeper can our moral values sink? Where's the morality in all this fracking business? Where's the future in our addiction to fossil fuels and rape of Mother Earth? Sunk, along with other social fossils which were ruled by Mammon instead of God. The earthquake was only a small harbinger of things to come for those blinded by sheer greed.

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5myopinion222(1 comment)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

This story isn't just filled with stupid cliches, it's also filled with assumptions and factual errors. Just wanted to make sure someone "told The Vindicator."

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6VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

At a time when we need domestic energy more than ever before, we run into issues that make us ponder if it is really worth it.

It's always nice to know you have a full tank of gas in the car, or you just paid the gas or propane bill for heating your house, but it's another thing to realize the consequences of how that energy arrives for our use.

As the prices for our fuels continue to rise from even the mention of Iraq, or Libyia, or Iran, or The Straits of Hormuz we must also consider the fact that other countries such as China and India are becoming major consumers of oil and gas and will spend more to get it.

How far are we willing to go to see domestic production of energy increase to the volume necessary to sustain our demand? Time, patience and responsibility should be the rule.

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7Joe306tow(49 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I expected as much from this part of Ohio. As Cuyahoga County puts it corrupt politicians on trial, Youngstown area crooks were recently given a free pass, by their corrupt friends. Now this garbage!!

Hey, VALLEY people and D&L energy expect to start seeing LAWSUITS from the recent 4.0 quake. That's right, people in Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Potage, Summit, Stark, and other counties that had damage from the 4.0 quake know where the epicenter was. And we will be collecting from you folks for the damages that you FRACKING CAUSED!!

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8glbtactivist(320 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Thanks to Rep. Hagan for defending the public. Usually all we hear is defenders of the greedy businessmen who would destroy the entire world for a buck. Does anyone know if the owners of the Vindicator have any investment in this terrible industry?

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9HappyBob(360 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The point of the article is simply that the D&L Energy well on Ohio Works drive is fairly unique compared with other Saltwater Injection wells in Ohio.
The oil interests would try to satisfy the concerned by saying that there are 170 injection wells in Ohio, but they don't tell you that these D&L wells are not like the others.
Just as the oil interests will try to placate the public with the assertion that fracking has been used for 40 plus years, but what they don't discuss is that horizontal fracking using millions of gallons of fluids is just in it's infancy. The vast majority of the fracking wells are vertical and employ relatively small amounts of fracking fluids.

You can bet that the pressure is on to get the D&L well on Market Street operational ASAP. Prudence would demand that the sensitive seismic monitoring around that well should begin now, to establish a baseline, before millions of gallons are pumped at that well.

Another part of the problem is that the state wants the revenues generated by the "tipping" fees for out-of state waste.
So the state is trying to balance the prospect of immediate revenue with that of harm being done to the environment and property values.

A LOT more needs to be learned about the well on Ohio Works drive, before another one is brought on- line on Market Street.

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10najjjj(106 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

derf: Earthquakes are nothing? You have no idea what magnitude earthquake these wells are capable of causing.....I don't think any person can say at this point. I lived in in the San Francisco Bay area for many years and was there during the 1989 World Series Quake. I'd like you to tell the relatives of the people that died in the fires, bridge and housing collapses that earthquakes are nothing. California has earthquake standards for buildings and these things still happen during quakes. Ohio has no earthquake building standards in place. There have been many incidents of property damage and loss of life in magnitude 4 earthquakes, which by the way are considered moderate quakes not micro quakes. The quakes are only part of the problems. You seems to forget the pollution of the water table by caustic chemicals.

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11JoeFromHubbard(1776 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

>> THE MISCONCEPTIONS SURROUNDING the natural gas and oil industry aren’t limited to fracking. <<

One of the few accurate statements made lately.

The fear of the industry is palpable in this area and is going to make development a bit more difficult.

Fortunately, the industry is sufficiently substantial to withstand the gaffs.

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12Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

OK I see nobody has any facts just uninformed opinions . Why can they not
reuse it ?????

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13cambridge(4065 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Freeatlast.....I would guess that the reason they don't reuse it is because because of drilling through rock and mud the chemicals they use for protecting the pipe and rig would be contaminated and would not protect their equipment as well.

Big gas and oil need to maintain those record profits every quarter and they can't let little things like earthquakes, water, ground and air pollution or destroying a communities real estate value stand in their way.

It's just easier and cheaper to ship it some place like Ohio and dump it on the locals.

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14southbelle22(16 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

you should be more worried about children having fracking-related cancers than children having jobs. freeatlast: here is a fact for you: chemicals used in fracking are known carcinogens. another fact: concrete cracks. another fact: water in ohio is already contaminated with chemicals as a result of drilling, fracking, and injecting. fact: cancer clusters among children already exist in areas where injecting frack waste occurs. please do your research and remember: a little common sense goes a long way.

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15walter_sobchak(2672 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

From my studying of the fracking process, there are a variety of reasons although some operators are experimenting with recycling. Flowback is mostly water used in fracking. In addition, there are the chemicals and sand used. These chemicals are used for a variety of reasons; friction reducers, biocides, gel agents, etc. Also included are chemicals and dissolved minerals from the fractured shale that are returned to the top. SInce quite a lot of fluid is pumped down, quite a lot comes back up. This flowback must be contained. This is done in surface pits or holding tanks and is regulated by state laws. Obviously, in Ohio, surface pits can be a bit of a problem due to our propensity for storms. Thus, the fluid is contained. From my understanding, with the variety of chemicals that are now mixed together, it is difficult and costly to try to alter this constantly changing chemical mix in flowback in an attempt to reuse. In fact, it would take even more chemicals to balance it out and it takes time. It is therefore, transported off-site for disposal. As with any process, transportation costs can be expensive so the drillers need disposal sites (injection wells) as close as possible to the drilling operations. Since PA doesn't allow injection wells but it is currently the biggest play in the Marcellus field (Ohio is just starting in the Utica field), we see many injection wells being installed along the border. Supposedly, Ohio has some of the tightest restrictions on fracturing and injection wells thus the US EPA has given it primacy governance over these processes.

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16Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Walter I'm glad you said "Supposedly", "Supposedly, Ohio has some of the tightest restrictions on fracturing and injection wells thus the US EPA has given it primacy governance over these processes."

- - - -You no doubt realize that many may believe Ohio was chosen for injection wells due to our greedy politicians.

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17JoeFromHubbard(1776 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Greed is good, it gets things accomplished.

We have greedy bankers, CEOs, lawyers, politicians, rich people, companies and numerous others.

To whom do you turn when you need a job, loan, or advice?

Those greedy people.

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18Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Hey JoeFromHubbard, if greed is so good then why is Texas shipping their waste water to Ohio, there is a lot of real estate between here and Texas.Surely there are greedy people in Texas.What happened ?

Nothing wrong with making profits but there is when your safety and well being are at risk then its a different story.PA has stopped injecting and ships here as well. There maybe other states that have stopped injecting.

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