Energy company shuts down fracking operation in Lawrence County


By Kalea Hall

khall@vindy.com

NEW CASTLE, pa.

A company told by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to stop fracking at a Poland Township site has now voluntarily stopped a fracking operation in Lawrence County, Pa.

Earthquakes are the reason for both.

Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Co. stopped its fracking operation at about noon Monday after a small earthquake occurred in Mahoning Township in Lawrence County, near its North Beaver NC Development well pad, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Wednesday.

Hilcorp, doing business as North Beaver NC Development, has four wells on that particular well pad. The first two wells were fracked starting March 30 going in the southeast direction and were completed, said department spokeswoman Melanie Williams in an emailed statement.

The second two wells were going in a northwest direction and fracking was ongoing, but near completion.

Fracking comes from the term hydraulic fracturing, which is a process of injecting fluids and chemical additives at a high pressure into the earth to fracture rocks below the surface and extract oil and gas.

The department and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are investigating the earthquake.

Hilcorp, which is a privately held company, did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

On the United States Geological Survey website, there was a 1.9-magnitude earthquake reported just after midnight April 25 about two miles from Bessemer, Pa., 5.6 miles from New Castle and about eight miles from Struthers.

In April 2014, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered Hilcorp to halt all operations in Poland Township after multiple earthquakes shook the area in March. ODNR placed a moratorium on drilling at that site.

The epicenter was directly below property owned by Republic Services’ Carbon Limestone Landfill, where Hilcorp Energy Co. had one well actively producing and a number of others being drilled at the time.

State regulators and geologists identified hydraulic fracturing as a “probable” trigger for the series of tremors in Poland Township, according to Vindicator files.

The state’s investigation results came weeks after The Vindicator reported that geologists outside of ODNR were considering that fracking led to the local quakes in March 2014.

ODNR placed a moratorium on drilling at the Poland Township site, but Hilcorp was allowed to recover oil and gas from five previously drilled wells.

“The wells owned by Hilcorp Energy Co. in Poland Township that were previously linked to seismic activity are producing from completed wells but have undergone no additional drilling or hydraulic fracturing activity since the 2014 event,” said Eric Heis, public information officer of ODNR, in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Hilcorp operates several wells in Lawrence County.

The company also has several wells in Columbiana County and received multiple permits for new wells in early 2015 from ODNR.

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