ODNR: Fracking well probable cause for earthquakes

POLAND TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WKBN) — The Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced Friday they have probable cause to link a fracking well in Poland Township to a series of March earthquakes.

The 11 earthquakes ranged in magnitude from 2.1 to 3.0 and occurred near the Hilcorp Energy Co. drill site at the Republic Services Carbon Limestone Landfill.

The ODNR said previously that its preliminary findings showed the tremors were not related to drilling activity.

ODNR preliminary report.

On Friday, the agency put a 3-mile moratorium on the Hilcorp well site. ODNR geologists believe the sand and water injected into the well at the well site in Poland Township during the hydraulic fracturing process may have increased pressure on an unknown micro fault in the area. While fracking at the site is suspended, the company will be permitted to recover resources from five previously drilled wells located on the pad.

For the complete ODNR statement, click here.

“I am very pleased that they looked over the data they had, they got the company’s data, they looked it over and found there is enough of a correlation that they want to side on public safety and put a moratorium on that area,” said Susie Beiersdorfer of Frack Free Mahoning Valley.

State Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Hubbard, said this is one of the only cases of seismic activity linked to a fracking well. O’Brien says he would like to see more seismic testing done in the Mahoning Valley before any more fracking wells are in operation to make sure they do not come in contact with these small seismic fault lines in our area.

“Safety is our primary concern, and we must act prudently and cautiously as we move forward,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien, who is a member of the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, said there could be more regulations imposed on drillers because of this development from both the ODNR and the state legislature moving forward.

“With all industry comes inherent risk and when you find these risks you have to recognize them and take the appropriate steps to make sure we minimize it. And I think that’s what we are doing here today, talking with ODNR and the regulations and, if needed, legislation,” O’Brien said.

The ODNR will look at all wells across the state, beginning in Youngstown, that may have seismic activity of a 2.0 or higher on the Richter scale. It will require additional seismic monitors at those sights.

O’Brien said the ODNR has responded quickly and kept his committee up to speed on all developments regarding this seismic activity.

Hillcorp officials issued a release Friday in response to the action saying they are “reviewing the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ latest announcement regarding drilling permits.”

“While we take the time necessary for understanding how these conditions impact Ohio operations, we remain fully committed to public safety and acting in a manner consistent with being a good corporate citizen in the communities where we operate,” the release stated.

Tom Humphries, president and CEO of the Regional Camber, also responded. Humphries said the Chamber will continue to support shale development in eastern Ohio and will support the new regulations set in place.

“We appreciate and support the new regulations being set in place today by ODNR to prevent future drilling near fault lines. We want our economy to grow through shale development with a priority on safety to our people and our environment,” said Humphries.

Humphries cited the Friday opening of the Evets fabrication plant in Hubbard as an example of economic growth in the area because of the oil and gas drilling industry. Evets is expected to create 30 new jobs with a $4 million investment in the area.

Thomas E. Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said Friday that the seismic activity in Poland Township was a “rare and isolated event that should not cast doubt about the safety of hydraulic fracturing.”

Stewart said the association is reviewing recent requirements issued by the ODNR, but said they will only support “sound, scientific principals and practicality.”

“Understanding the geology of an area thousands of feet below ground is complicated. While advanced technology has greatly increased our knowledge of potential seismicity and fault lines, it is not always a precise science,” Stewart said in prepared statement.

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