Neighbors rocked by cluster of 14 new injection, production wells planned in northeast Portage County

Neighbors rocked by cluster of 14 new injection, production wells planned in northeast Portage County by Bob Downing, October 21, 2012, Beacon Journal
WINDHAM TWP.: In what should be the still of the night, Natalie Baker can feel her house shake. It is a strange, disconcerting and troubling sensation, Baker says of the vibrations caused by a drilling rig 1,800 feet away off Frazier Road in Portage County’s northeast corner. The neighborhood on the township line between Windham and Nelson is the epicenter, the hottest hot spot, in Ohio’s Utica shale formation — with 14 new wells planned, permitted or already under construction. Some are only a few hundred feet apart. Half of the wells would produce oil and gas; the other half would be used for injection of briny wastewater. “Who would want to live with 14 wells? I’m not confident that a leaking well would be detected and corrected right away,” Baker, 46, said. “Fourteen wells in one place is a nightmare.” And apparently, unprecedented in Ohio.

Jeff Daniels, a geology professor and director of the Subsurface Energy Resource Center at Ohio State University, said he was unaware of any place in Ohio where there is such a concentration of production and injection wells. From all indications, the Ohio Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management will approve the entire cluster of wells, despite environmentalists’ protests and increasing neighborhood tensions. “We’re alarmed by what’s being allowed … and we have serious concerns about putting all these wells in one place,” said Gwen Fischer, a Portage County resident and member of Concerned Citizens Ohio. “We have serious reservations about how safe this will be and how the industrial nature of these wells will affect the whole community. “This is a huge concern.”

“It’s just crazy,” neighbor Leah Cain, 54, said of all the activity and the plans for more drilling. “A lot can happen, and we’re fearful. “What’s happening here is not in the public interest. … “Why are things moving so fast? Why the rush?” Cain asked. Neighbors are not clear why the two kinds of wells are being located so close together and they “are starting to feel like guinea pigs in an experimental process,” said Trish Harness, 36, of Garrettsville. … “Nowhere else in Ohio do you find so many injection wells clustered together. Nowhere else in the world will you find injection wells on top of frack well laterals,” Harness said.

Putting injection wells close to production wells “makes economic sense” for drillers, said Jeffrey C. Dick, chairman of the geology department at Youngstown State University. “It’s a possible new trend,” he said. Drillers could run a small pipeline from the production well to the nearby injection well and eliminate the need to haul waste by truck, he said. At present, Ohio has 178 operating injection wells, mostly in eastern Ohio. Another 15 wells have been permitted but are not operating.

The two types of wells are separated by significant vertical space with numerous layers of impermeable rock in between, he said. The injection wells would have to be adequately spaced from each other to ensure that the underground pressure doesn’t interfere with the injection operations, he said. The state, Daniels said, would not approve the plan if the injection wells were too close together. Tomastik said the distance between the injection wells in Nelson and Windham townships appears adequate.

“I can’t believe that this is really happening to us. … This shouldn’t happen to us or anyone else.” [Emphasis added]

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