State experts say no fracking waste for county

Heather Meade, Staff Writer

December 18, 2013

GREENVILLE – Jim Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), brought two experts in oil and gas, and more specifically, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to answer some questions that local residents and community leaders had following a meeting held in October by the Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition (WOFAC).

“I think there were concerns in Darke County about some of the things that were said at the meeting (in October), and I think a lot of those details were cleared up for people. I think it went very well,” said John Keller, organizer of the meeting.

Keller was referring to community leaders such as the mayor of Greenville, county commissioners, soil and water experts, agriculture and natural resource leaders, and business leaders from the community that were included in the guest list. The leaders of WOFAC were invited as well, but conflicts stopped them from attending, said Keller.

“They [WOFAC] had conflicts, it was too bad…[these] meetings were to try to get them proper information, and it was unfortunate that they were unable to attend,” Keller stated. “…The main point is that we gained a greater knowledge of how much regulation there is in that industry. And the fact that we, in Darke County, are removed from the actual drilling areas, and there’s very little chance that waste material will come to this area. I think we were reassured about that, and I think people felt good about that.”

State Representative Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) also attended the meeting, and said he was pleased with the turnout to hear what the regulation of the gas industry is all about within the ODNR.

Greenville’s mayor, Mike Bowers, commented that he attended the meeting because “it’s always good to make sure you have both sides of a story and make sure true, accurate and correct information is being disseminated to everyone.”

“It’s nice that we have concerned citizens looking at this…to make sure everyone’s getting true and accurate information, so that we, as leaders, can make the best decisions for the future of Greenville,” Bowers stated. “They (ODNR) did present a lot of good information. Obviously, the fracking is never going to come to this area for the simple fact of geology…We just need to make sure we’re prepared for anything long-term, as well. I want to make sure this community is viable for future generations.”

And experts from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Rick Simmons, chief of ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources, and Scott Kell, deputy chief of ODNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management, assured those at the meetings, that there have been no applications for drilling, and that the odds of an injection well being permitted in Darke County are slim.

“The majority of gas and oil exploration in Ohio in recent decades, and certainly the current Utica-Point Pleasant boom is all eastern Ohio and that is where oil and natural gas and brine is being produced, and that’s where injection wells are being located because the oil and gas industry wants that proximity to help reduce and manage the cost associated with waste transportation. The notion that the existing wells, most of them, could easily be converted into class II wells, is nonsense,” stated ODNR’s Rick Simmers.

Simmers went on to say that existing wells in Darke County were built between 1895 and 1920 and would not meet current standards, and furthermore, said Simmers, there aren’t clear enough records of all wells in the area to allow a permit for a Class II Injection well.

“I suspect that even if we had detailed records, wells drilled at the turn of the century aren’t going to meet modern day standards. The other issue is that any time we permit, or review an application for a Class II permit, we conduct what is called an area of review,” Simmers noted. “We need to make sure that within an area surrounding that injection well, that there are no other wells that penetrate that same formation…

“You don’t see us permitting many injection wells in this part of the state…the industry has access to proximal injection wells throughout eastern Ohio, there are numerous locations in eastern Ohio that are conducive to providing good injection zones for them,” Simmers continued. “There’s no reason for them to reach all the way over to Darke County for that purpose.”

While Darke County is suitable, geologically, for a Class II Injection well, Simmers was adamant that the likelihood of that happening wasn’t good. But, if it were to happen, Ohio’s inspection programs, which help to ensure that the radioactive waste from hydraulic fracturing continues to be contained, is one of the most stringent programs in the country and has been running smoothly for 30 years, Simmers stated.

“Don’t think of this as nasty water that is coming here; nasty stuff came up through the production, it was separated, we took the useful product – the natural gas and oil, and we’re all using it – so we draw off that useful product, and then we separate the waste, we contain it, and we push it down a very similarly constructed well, with all the monitors, back into the formation is came from – isn’t that logical?” Simmers commented.

Scott Kell, ODNR, discussed the nature of the waste – salt water, or brine – and the concerns that people often have.

“The main concern with brine is it’s highly saline, and it naturally contains dissolved organic compounds…these are volatile organic compounds that are natural to crude oil…so yes, those are in there,” Kell noted. “If it wasn’t toxic, we wouldn’t inject it. We’re not trying to minimize the fact that this stuff should not be discharged at the surface – injection is how we keep it from being discharged at the surface. It’s a commonsense approach by which you’re taking a highly salty water and re-injecting it right back into equally salty zones that also contain these hydrocarbons.”

“Plus, it’s the law,” Zehringer asserted.

For more information on fracking or Class II Injection wells, visit oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov.