Fracking Induced Quakes Shake Up Tougher Regulations In Ohio

Author: Travis Leipzig

After new research made the connection between a long series of seismic activity to nearby hydraulic fracturing operations in Youngstown, Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced Friday new regulations for fracking as a means to extract natural gas. The new regulations make Ohio's requirements for monitoring and disposing of fracking fluids among the toughest in the nation.

These new regulations were inspired by a series of 12 seismic events that occurred within a one mile radius of a Class II disposal well used to store waste fluid (click here to view a list of hazardous chemicals used in fracking "cocktails")that has been used to extract natural gas from the earth. Class II disposal wells typically exceed depths of 9,000 feet and penetrate the Precambrian basement rock formation.

After extensive research and analysis of the seismic activity surrounding the well, all reports showed that the Youngstown fracking disposal site was well within EPA regulations, but the site was still ordered to be shut down. This causes me to question whether or not EPA regulations of hydraulic fracturing are thorough enough (read: EPA regulations of fracking need to be significantly more thorough).

The reforms being put forward by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources include the following:

  • Requires a review of existing geologic data for known faulted areas within the state and avoid the locating of new Class II disposal wells within these areas;
  • Requires a complete suite of geophysical logs (including, at a minimum, gamma ray, compensated density-neutron, and resistivity logs) to be run on newly drilled Class II disposal wells. A copy of the completed log, with analytical interpretation will be submitted to ODNR;
  • Evaluates the potential for conducting seismic surveys;
  • Requires operators to plug back with cement, prior to injection, any well drilled in Precambrian basement rock for testing purposes.
  • Requires the submission, at time of permit application, of any information available concerning the existence of known geological faults within a specified distance of the proposed well location, and submission of a plan for monitoring any seismic activity that may occur;
  • Requires a measurement or calculation of original downhole reservoir pressure prior to initial injection;
  • Requires conducting a step-rate injection test to establish formation parting pressure and injection rates;
  • Requires the installation of a continuous pressure monitoring system, with results being electronically available to ODNR for review;
  • Requires the installation of an automatic shut-off system set to operate if the fluid injection pressure exceeds a maximum pressure to be set by ODNR;
  • Requires the installation of an electronic data recording system for purposes of tracking all fluids brought by a brine transporter for injection;
  • While I applaud the ODNR for putting forth these tougher regulations on fracking in the state, there are still other sever environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. Not only do fracking drillers use million gallons of fresh water (mixed with hazardous chemicals, but these hazardous chemicals are also potentially seeping into groundwater aquifers, poisoning drinking water in many communities.

    We can live without natural gas, but we cannot live without fresh drinking water, and well, it would be nice to live without fear of oil/gas industry induced earthquakes.

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