By Karl Henkel
Utica Shale exploration has started without a hitch, according to a thorough review of well-inspection reports, but those against the fracking process say its too early to draw conclusions regarding Ohio’s first foray into massive horizontal resource extraction.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources through the end of April had conducted 254 on-site well inspections at Utica Shale wells.
ODNR has yet to cite any energy companies with a violation.
The reports detailed inspections conducted and submitted to ODNR offices. Other inspections could have taken place but are not included in state records until submitted by the inspector and approved by ODNR management.
“This reinforces the fact that as these companies continue to develop Ohio’s natural resources, they are not only contributing to our communities in investment and job creating, but also striving to be good stewards of the environment,” said Dan Alfaro, communications director with industry group Energy In Depth Ohio.
Heidi Hetzel-Evans, ODNR spokeswoman, said ODNR has inspected all 65 drilled wells at least once and that wells likely will be inspected at least three times before the start of production.
Despite the lack of violations, Vanessa Pesec, president of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability, said as the number of Utica Shale wells grows exponentially, it will become more difficult to keep tabs on each and every drilling site.
“They are woefully inadequate in terms of inspectors,” she said.
Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, has said energy companies could drill as many as 4,000 Utica Shale wells in Ohio by 2015.
ODNR countered Pesec’s claim by saying that it plans to double its staffing for oil- and gas-related activities by this time next year.
ODNR’s inspector count should climb from its current 32 to about 80 or 90 by early 2013, Hetzel-Evans said.
Here in the Mahoning Valley, ODNR conducted 24 inspections at a well in Milton Township dating back to Dec. 18, 2010.
In one instance, from an inspection March 21, 2011, an ODNR inspector noted that state environmental regulator looked into an “oil and gas problem” with a water well on nearby Robinson Road.
Matthew Bierteman, 14713 Robinson Road, said his water tasted like metal. ODNR took a water sample
The complaint, according to the report, was “resolved” April 4, 2011.
The report did not detail how the situation was resolved.
Ohio Buckeye Energy, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., used 2,500 gallons of 15-percent hydrochloric acid, 306,097 gallons of “slick” water — a combination of water and gel — and more than 350,000 pounds of sand, which acts as a proppant to keep rock formations open after they are fracked.
The maximum allowable pressure at the well was set at 7,500 pounds per square inch.
The frack job was designed for 3,500 psi, only 1,000 psi more than the D&L Energy Inc. Youngstown injection well site, which unintentionally tried to deposit fracking fluids into the solid rock Precambrian formation.
That well triggered 13 earthquakes in 2011 and early 2012.