By Ed Runyan
Though the president of American Water Management Services Inc. said the start of commercial brine injection just north of Niles is about a week away, state regulators say it’s too soon to determine whether several Poland Township earthquakes will delay that plan.
Ron Klingle, president of AWMS, said last month he was hopeful that in “a couple weeks” testing will be complete and injection can begin so the company “can get a little of our money back” from the cost of construction.
The Howland company, a subsidiary of Avalon Holdings Corp., has nearly completed construction of the injection facility, which is in Weathersfield Township just north of North Road on state Route 169.
The locations of the Poland Township quakes and the Weathersfield Township injection well are about 20 miles apart.
American Water Management drilled the injection well in the fall, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has continuously monitored seismometers since they were placed in the ground near the site in November.
Initially, those seismometers were there to establish a baseline of seismic activity, such as earthquakes, that occur without any injection taking place.
In more recent weeks, the seismometers have been used to determine whether injection tests done at the injection well have produced any ground movement.
Mark Bruce, ODNR spokesman, said no seismic activity has been detected other than “noise signals” coming from locations many miles away, such as rock quarrying.
Bruce said last week the monitoring “continues to show nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, the only recorded events have been” the earthquakes that shook the ground in Poland Township in March.
State officials are investigating 11 earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.0 that occurred near the Hilcorp Energy Co. Republic Services Carbon Limestone Landfill in the Mahoning County township to determine whether the movement is related to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that Hilcorp was doing there.
The ODNR ordered Hilcorp to cease drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities at the site until the state can determine whether there was a link between the movement and the fracking.
As for the possible start date for commercial injection of brine at the Weathersfield site, Bruce said American Water Management “only recently asked for approval to begin [commercial] injection, and there is no specific timetable for ODNR to issue that approval.”
Bruce said ODNR’s review of the Poland Township earthquakes is ongoing, and it’s premature to say whether that review will hold up injection in Weathersfield.
Klingle, who is also vice chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority, said an investigation of the Poland Township earthquakes should not be used as a reason to hold up his injection well because hydraulic fracturing and brine injection are “two completely different things.”
In hydraulic fracturing water is put into rock under pressure, whereas brine injection involves putting brine into rock layers that are “extremely porous,” he said.
“There is no pressure underground, so there’s no reason to consider the two issues together,” he added.
Klingle said pressure tests have been done at his site, including the injection of brine, and they produced no seismic activity. He said one of the best indications that the well is safe is that even after pressurized equipment from a tanker truck was removed, the fluids didn’t come back out of the ground.
“That’s as good a sign as you can get for an injection well,” Klingle said, because it means the rock layer 9,100 feet deep for one injection well and 4,700 feet deep for a second one at the site are porous enough to accept the fluids.
In the coming weeks, the high-pressure pumps to eventually inject the fluids will be installed, and injection tests will be performed for a couple more weeks, Klingle said.
“They already know the tests were successful. [ODNR] is happy with all that’s been going on so far,” he said.
As for the New Year’s Eve 2011 4.0-magnitude earthquake at the D&L Energy injection well in Youngstown, which shut down that well, Klingle said his well will not be accessing the Precambrian geological formation that the D&L injection well impacted.
His 9,100-foot deep well is “many hundreds of feet” above the Precambrian formation, he said.
Scientists have said the Youngstown earthquakes occurred because injection pressure caused slippage of existing geological faults in the Precambrian formation, which is just below the Mount Simon and Knox formations, which Klingle’s deeper injection well will use.
“Everything we see, it’s just a perfect place to do it,” Klingle said of the location underground where his injection well will operate.