By Ed Runyan
Though the Kibler 1H horizontal gas and oil well on Brunstetter Road in Lords-town has been silent for the past couple of months, a new type of drilling activity alarmed two environmental activists over the weekend.
Patricia McCrudden, a resident of Westwood Lake Mobile Home Park in Weathersfield Township and a frequent critic of horizontal fracturing since the well went online earlier this year near her home, called 911 twice Saturday.
The first call regarded flaring, the process of burning off gas from the well. McCrudden called 911 because the flaring that started Saturday evening was very loud. The 911 operator told her there was nothing to be concerned about.
She also called John Williams of Niles, another activist, who came to see what was happening at the Halcon-operated horizontal well, which was fracked several months ago and had been idle about two months.
Shortly after Williams arrived, he and McCrudden witnessed a whitish plume of smoke or vapor at the well, which is about 800 feet from her home.
Williams took a video of the plume, as it was a type of discharge he and McCrudden had not seen before. It made Williams wonder if it was what he called a “direct venting” of gas from the well, as opposed to flaring.
McCrudden called 911 again and was told not to worry — and to please stop calling 911, Williams said.
Vince Bevacqua, a spokesman for Halcon, said the whitish plume was nitrogen, which was injected into the well Saturday to “restimulate” the well. The plume was the nitrogen being released afterward, he said.
“It’s an inert gas that poses no public danger at all,” Bevacqua said.
Mark Bruce, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed that the gas being used was nitrogen, “an inert and nonflammable gas,” to prepare the well for production in a process Bruce called “purging.” An ODNR inspector was notified that this was going to take place, Bruce said.
“The venting of nitrogen had no impact on human health or safety,” Bruce said in an email.
He added that Halcon has taken steps to mitigate noise from well operations — a complaint residents have voiced in the past — by installing sound barriers around the well pad.
“ODNR inspectors will monitor the effectiveness of these devices as operations move forward and request changes be made as necessary to further reduce impact to nearby residents,” Bruce said.
Halcon notified the Lords-town dispatch center ahead of time that it was going to be flaring that night, so when the dispatcher received a call regarding the well, the caller was advised not to be concerned, a dispatcher said.
Travis Eastham, Lords-town fire chief, said he has had enough experience with the Halcon well and its operations to form the belief that its management closely monitors everything happening there in person or through equipment monitored by Halcon personnel in Texas.
“It’s a system where you have more qualified people on the site than we have in all of Northeast Ohio,” Eastham said. “I don’t believe there was a hazard.”
Eastham said Halcon keeps Lordstown’s emergency-service workers informed of what the company is doing. He also believes the issues causing concern for the mobile- home park’s residents will lessen because Halcon won’t need to burn off gas once it begins trucking gas and oil from the site sometime in early November. Sometime after that, the products will leave the site through underground pipes, he said.