D&L Energy Group of Youngstown announced it is nearing completion on an injection well off state Route 7 after nearly two years of development there.
The announcement is a significant one, considering a report released earlier this year by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that strongly suggested the company’s Northstar 1 well on Youngstown’s West Side triggered a series of earthquakes last New Year’s Eve that led the department to suspend all drilling activity within a 5-mile radius of that site, which is still idle.
“They were able to correlate the location of the earthquakes with the bottom of the well,” said Raymond Beiersdorfer, geology professor at Youngstown State University, in reference to ODNR’s report.
For the most part, D&L made the announcement to pre-empt any public concerns, said Vince Bevacqua, company spokesman.
Unlike hydraulic fracking, which uses water, chemicals and sand to crack shale-rock formations thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and extract natural gas and oil, injection wells are used to dispose of the chemical-laced waste- water used during the fracking process, otherwise known as brine.
The North Lima site, immediately visible off Route 7, north of the Pilot Travel Center, where a 100-foot-tall derrick sits, has received all the necessary permits and approvals from ODNR. In all, Ohio is home to more than 175 such wells.
The derrick will be used to remove the bore pipe from the well-hole so crews can pour a concrete footing at the well’s bottom. The footing will act as a buffer and prevent injected material from entering lower rock formations that can crack under pressure and force the earth to slip and set off earthquakes.
The move is meant to shore up the injection well and improve against the odds of a similar event, such as the one in Youngstown, from occurring at the North Lima site, company officials said.
In its report, ODNR concluded that D&L had drilled too deeply into a layer of rock known as the Precambrian, a rock basement 9,000 feet below the earth’s surface thought to be more than 600 million years old.
When liquid was pumped at high pressure into the rocks, it caused them to crack, acting as a lubricant that allowed the rocks to slip under the weight of those above them, triggering a magnitude-4.0 earthquake.
Bevacqua insists the company has taken every step possible to ensure complete compliance with state regulations. He noted that ODNR, per its operational standards, will be on site for the final phase of the well’s construction, which is expected to take a week.
State Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, says he doesn’t trust D&L or an industry he claims is taking advantage of the state’s unemployment rate and underfunded local governments to sell public officials and others on the benefits of oil and gas drilling.
“I do believe we’re not getting enough information on the amount of chemicals coming in from Pennsylvania and other parts of the country to become the chemical injection capital of the world,” Hagan said.
He added that Ohio should go slower in permitting both injection wells and fracking wells to better protect the public from any unknowns.
Bevacqua said the company has been both cooperative and transparent. The North Lima well is expected to begin injection operations near the end of the year or in early 2013.