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Drilling moves toward suburbia in Mahoning Valley

Published: Sun, October 14, 2012 @ 12:09 a.m.

By Burton Speakman | bspeakman@vindy.com


Horizontal drilling is moving toward the suburbs, but you’re not likely to see a drilling rig in the middle of your neighborhood.

Current horizontal-drilling technology makes it impossi- ble for a well site to be placed in a suburban neighborhood, said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

One company is attracting attention, however, for specifically leasing urban Mahoning County land, Stewart said.

“What they’re trying to do is drill horizontally for 6,000 to 8,000 feet,” he said. “They’ll have five to six wells on one [drilling] pad, and it will look like a comb. They’re going to need a lot of space to make that happen.”

Although Stewart did not name the company, Houston-based Hilcorp has been buying leases for small properties in Campbell, Struthers, Lowellville, Poland Township and Springfield Township.

Drilling near neighborhoods has occurred in the Mahoning Valley’s past. Vertical Clinton formation wells dot many landscapes.

The industry has drilled in Canfield for decades with wells as close as 100 feet to a house.

Some practices drillers use in sparsely populated Western and rural areas cannot be done in suburbs, said Joseph A. Stanislaw, founder of the advisory firm The JAStanislaw Group LLC and an oil and gas expert.

Some issues with drilling will arise as they get closer to suburbs. Companies will do what they can to shield the sites from view and use sound dampening measures to protect neighbors, Stanislaw said.

Oil and gas drilling is a 24/7 business, he said.

“Once they start drilling, they’re not going to stop because it gets dark out,” Stanislaw said.

Noise will be caused from surface equipment and from trucks that continually bring supplies to the site and remove waste products, Stanislaw said.

“The truck traffic is going to be more than they’re used to,” he said.

Construction lighting at the sites will allow drilling to continue all night. Stanislaw compared the brightness to lighting at a high school football field, but the lights at sites should be closer to the ground.

“The lights now can be directed down instead of out, so they won’t bother neighbors,” he said.

Susie Beiersdorfer, a Mahoning Valley anti-fracking activist, said additional health risks arise with drilling in populated areas. She is not convinced that oil and gas companies can do anything to lessen risks and annoyances that come along with drilling.

“Drilling is a heavy industrial process, which will lead to increased truck traffic, noise and light pollution and, more importantly, increased air pollution from trucks and diesel engines,” she said.

Those with complaints about noise or light pollution from a drill site can complain to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said Heidi Hetzel-Evans, ODNR spokeswoman.

“We may not come out in the middle of the night, but we’ll respond as quickly as possible,” she said.

ODNR has inspectors who work varied shifts so that someone is on duty 24 hours a day, Hetzel-Evans said. ODNR has worked with producers to find ways to mitigate the sound from drilling operations in urban areas.

ODNR has received few complaints about night lighting at sites, she said.

“Despite the long established record of the Ohio oil and gas industry, there is always room for improvement. I know that the environmental and social track record is solid in light of the vast amount of activity experienced in this state,” Stewart said.

“No matter where a well is drilled there are risks associated with creating a hole in the ground and exposing a reservoir to production. That is why Ohio relies on regulation by experts.”

Laws on urban drilling were set in Senate Bill 165 in 2010. It requires a site-specific inspection before a permit can be issued, he said. It also requires that anyone who lives within 500 feet of a proposed drilling site receive notice before operations start.

The goal was to be also to “maximize” local authority input into the permit process, Stewart said.

“Good public policy and, ultimately, the fate of the Ohio industry are intrinsically tied to public faith and confidence in the Ohio oil and gas regulatory program,” he said.

Local offices for the ODNR and contact information can be found online at http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/facilities/tabid/10760/Default.


1bmanresident(607 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This is great news for the area! The more land that they are able to gobble up and drill under means more residents can pack up and move out! Let's only hope the gas companies buy the South Side and fence that off!

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2ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

The article fails to mention that the drilling operation is TEMPORARY. After a couple of months, the well is done and they pack up and move out. So its not like a big industrial plant is moving in and will be there forever. Also, if you are close enough to one of these rigs that it bothers you, then you should be making around $5,000 an acre in bonuses and up to 20% in royalties, and at least for me, that compensation more than mitigates the TEMPORARY inconveniences I have to endure to get it.

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3howardinyoungstown(591 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This is what a shale gas well site looks like in pre-production. Take an area the size of a football field and park about 100 semi trucks on it, the drilling rig is in the center usually so you might only see the tower portion. There are storage tanks for flowback that are open vented and emit VOC's into the air, from 10-20 huge diesel engines mounted on 40 foot trailers that emit the same amount of particulates and CO2 as 50-100 Semi-trucks at full power which are run 24/7 when the fracking process is occurring 5-9 days per frack and 6-12 fracks per well and up to 20 wells per site. As for noise think about living next to a busy downtown bus terminal, no not Youngstown or even Cleveland more like Los Angeles or NYC sized bus terminal running 24/7 without interruption for a week (unless there is an accident).

Lets do the math:
7days per frac times
10 fracs per well times
8 wells per site equals
560 days of heavy industrial activity

This is what you can expect to be in an urban or suburban neighborhood. In addition is has been estimated that for each fully completed well there will be approximately 3000 truck loads of equipment and supplies times 8 wells on avg. per site equals 24,000 truck loads times 2 for each round trip equals 56,000 trucks driving over city streets that were never designed for this kind of use.

Now lets take the 56,000 trucks and divide that by the 560 days of heavy industrial activity and that comes to 100 trucks per day that may be driving through your neighborhood, or past your children's school.

How exactly is this good for our communities?

When you consider that other counties that are a few years into this drilling boom are experiencing a 30% increase in emergency response calls and and a 10% increase in jail population (mostly Texas and Oklahoma drivers licenses) while seeing virtually no increase in revenues to the local government, what programs will have to be cut to fund this additional burden on our fire and police budgets?

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4Attis(1134 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

The love of money has always been the root of all kinds of evil, but not until this corporate invasion of mother earth frackers has the evil they bring threatened to utterly destroy our water sources. All that is necessary for this evil to triumph, is for good folks to do nothing. Hopefully We The People will finally understand that water is more precious than oil and to harvest the one by destroying the other is The End.

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5Bigben(1996 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

" They drive everywhere. Before you complain about pollution, mind your own tailpipes!"

They are drilling natural gas wells not oil wells for the most part. Next if there were no danger of people getting harmed by the fracking process then why the why the need for the secret formula.

I just heard on the news that they want to frack in Jackson township near a stream that leads to our drinking water supply and supposedly without EPA approval. To put American citizens' water at risk of poisoning is evil and only evil scum would knowingly do that.

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