Houston-based Halcon Resources Corp. had an unusual audience Wednesday when it hosted a lesson for about 50 students at Jackson-Milton High School to educate them about seismic testing and some of the attention-grabbing tools they use to do it.
Halcon Resources Senior Geophysicist John Tinnin offered the school’s principal the opportunity for a lesson, as the company’s presence has intensified in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Halcon has just five drilling permits in the state, all of which are in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. It has two wells in North Jackson and Lordstown.
The company’s Utica drilling program started last year.
Wednesday’s lesson came with demonstrations from four 50,000-pound seismic testing trucks and most surprisingly, Halcon flew in a helicopter to demonstrate how exploration and production companies use them to facilitate the fast and efficient movement of materials to hard-to-reach areas.
Stephen Mohr, a chemistry, physics and biology teacher at the high school, coordinated the event to get students inspired about a career in oil and gas.
“My kids are always asking about fracking; especially with all the wealth and activity coming into the area, they’re very interested,” Mohr said. “This is the chance to educate students who hopefully turn around and educate their parents so the information spreads.”
In recent years, seismic trucks have become a common site in the Mahoning Valley.
Similar to taking an ultra sound of the earth, three trucks work in tandem at each shot point, where they drive along a road and conduct seismic testing by using a pad underneath the truck that applies vibrational pressure to the earth’s surface and generates high and low frequency waves.
The energy reflected is recorded by about 2,000 geophones, which are conical shaped sensors buried more than 20 feet below the ground across what is typically 13 miles.
By measuring the time and distance of each wave’s return as it bounces off geological features underground, the crew can map the depth and composition of those rock formations and locate oil, reservoirs and water that help the company determine how best to design wells and extract oil and gas.
Although drilling for oil is nothing new, each rock formation has its own characteristics and composition that operators must adapt to and understand in order to “crack the code” of the rock and figure out best practices.
The geology of the Utica shale varies from north to south and east to west. The formation is older than others and as a result, there are about five zones where the composition of oil and gas vary from pockets of wet and dry gas with different energy content.
Tinnin said the trucks don’t cause any structural damage to the road and only a slight, if barely noticeable, vibration could be felt. Operators must apply for permits and detail the scope and length of their testing efforts.
Halcon’s seismic program got started last year and from beginning to end, Tinnin said it usually takes about 14 months to complete. He added that the company has about 4 months left until it is finished.
Though some students were only mildly engaged, and others seemed to lose interest altogether at times, the curiosity of some was piqued.
Devin Seka, 16, and a junior at the high school, said he’s been interested in going to college to become a mechanical or robotic engineer.
“I want to do something hands-on — something that involves math or science,” Seka said of a subject he’s excelled in.
“I’ve been interested for about two or three years now. This is pretty cool. [Tinnin] said they need geophysicists so I’m going to look into that too.”