Brine wells pumped $1.5M into Ohio coffers in ’11

By Karl Henkel


Ohio made nearly $1.5 million off brine- injection wells during 2011, thanks to 12 million barrels of brine disposed of in the state’s 177 injection wells.

About 53 percent of that brine, or fracking wastewater, originated from someplace other than Ohio, according to figures obtained Friday by The Vindicator from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The volume is the equivalent of 776 Olympic-sized swimming pools or 448 million 12-pack cans of soda.

One barrel is equal to 42 gallons.

D&L Energy Inc. disposed of about 5 percent, or roughly 550,000 barrels, at its Youngstown well site, active for all but one day last year.

Nearly 94 percent of wastewater at the D&L site originated from someplace other than Ohio.

The fee, which the state implemented in 2010 with the passage of Senate Bill 165, levies a 5-cents-per-barrel tax on all injected brine that originates from Ohio.

It also imposes a 20-cents-per-barrel tax on injected brine from out of state.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources implemented the latter fee under the theory that it would deter oil and gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia from transporting brine water to the Buckeye State.

Pennsylvania last May banned brine from wastewater treatment plants, so drilling companies began shipping the liquid to Ohio.

ODNR Geologist Tom Tomastik said that last year he received applications for 29 new injection wells, the highest total since 1983.

That year, ODNR received primacy status as an injection-well regulator from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The reason for the uptick in injection wells is a result of drilling in the Utica and Marcellus shales. Brine used to frack wells can be disposed in one of three ways; the most popular is by injection well.

Injection-well companies such as Youngstown-based D&L Energy Inc. recently have built multiple wells, including one on Ohio Works Drive in the city, which was shut down Dec. 30, 2011, after it triggered a series of earthquakes.

The maximum the state can make on an injection well is $100,000 annually, if that well accepts strictly out-of-state brine. The state can tax wells only a maximum of 500,000 barrels of wastewater per injection well in a calendar year. The owner of that well is entitled to keep 3 percent of any levied taxes.

That taxed money, according to SB 165, goes to the Oil and Gas Well Fund and is used for the Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management, which receives no state general-revenue funding and operates solely on fees and severance taxes.

Other fees and taxes include brine and oil and gas-well application fees, which range from $250 to $5,000 each; well change-of-owner fees, which cost $100; and per-barrel natural oil and gas fees.

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