A wastewater injection well that was drilled some eight years ago but never opened for business near Youngstown, OH is once again seeing construction activity–in preparation to bring the well online. Although the Northstar Collins #6 well was drilled years ago, the original permit to operate it is expired. The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) says they are talking with the owners and expect a new permit application to be filed any time now.
Remember the name Ben Lupo and D&L Energy? This was one of their injection wells.
In the closing hours of 2011, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake shook the Youngstown, OH area (see Youngstown Earthquake and Fracking: Is There a Connection?). It was later determined the quake was caused by an injection well owned by D&L Energy. Then-Gov. John Kasich ordered a moratorium on all injection wells within five miles of the D&L injection well. (Note: The Collins #6 well is outside of that zone but did not open for other reasons, below.)
D&L’s owner was Ben Lupo, who also owned sister company Hardrock Excavating, operating both companies under the D&L Energy Group umbrella. Given his injection wells were not operating, in September 2012, Lupo instructed a Hardrock employee to dump untreated frack wastewater down a sewer drain that emptied into the Mahoning River. The illegal dumping was discovered in early 2013 (see Youngstown Business Dumped >200K Gal of Untreated Wastewater). The Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources (ODNR) promptly shut down both D&L Energy and Hardrock in February 2013 (see OH Wastewater Dumper D&L Energy Gets Business Death Sentence).
Both Lupo and the driver received prison sentences and fines for their role in that ignominious affair. Aside from the permanently shuttered D&L injection well that caused the earthquake, the company had drilled at least two other injection wells–Northstar Collins #6 and (in another location) Northstar Lucky #4. Neither of the drilled wells began operations because of the series of actions that shut down D&L.
D&L filed for bankruptcy and sold its assets in late 2013. The buyer of those assets, Denver-based Resource Land Holdings LLC, “expressed interest in operating the well in the future” and began work at the site to reopen the well in July 2016. Resource, operating under the subsidiary name of Bobcat Energy, opened the Northstar Lucky #4 well in September 2016 (see Former D&L Injection Well in Ohio Goes Online “in a Big Way”).
And now, Bobcat plans to open Collins #6, judging from all the construction activity and ODNR’s statements:
Work is underway at a Class II injection well site in Coitsville Township that was drilled, but then idled after a 4.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the Mahoning Valley more than seven years ago.
On Friday morning, backhoes and construction workers were busy at the well site along McCartney Road, preparing the area for further development.
“The Northstar Collins No. 6 well is listed as drilled, and the old permit has expired,” said Adam Schroeder, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Oil and Gas Division. “We’re having ongoing conversations with the owners and are awaiting an application for a new permit, if that’s the direction they want to go with the property.”
Schroeder said it’s likely that Bobcat Energy will apply for a permit to use the site for “oil and gas activity” once it is prepared.
When contacted by a reporter, a representative from Bobcat Energy hung up the phone.
The Collins No. 6 well was drilled but never activated. That’s because an injection well in Youngstown, then owned by now-defunct D&L Energy, was tied to a series of earthquakes that shook the region beginning in March 2011. On New Year’s Eve of that year, a magnitude 4.0 quake that officials say was triggered by the Youngstown well shook the Mahoning Valley.
Gov. John Kasich ordered the well shut down and declared a moratorium on further injection well activity within a five-mile radius of the Youngstown well. That moratorium has since been lifted.
The Coitsville well, once owned by D&L but now owned by Canfield-based Bobcat, was drilled in 2011 but never activated, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
In 2016, ODNR confirmed that Bobcat was working on a plan to develop a surface facility at the site and start that well. Since then, the area has become a gathering point for activists who oppose the operation of Class II injection wells in their communities.
“What concerns me is that the Coitsville well was initially drilled into the Pre-Cambria rock,” said Teresa Mills, who runs the Ohio field office for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an advocacy group based in Falls Church, Va. Mills tracks injection well activity in the Appalachian region. That Pre-Cambria rock is about the same depth as the ill-fated Northstar No. 1 well that was connected to the earthquakes seven years ago.
“The Mahoning Valley is the poster child of where not to place an injection well,” Mills said.
According to ODNR, the Coitsville well has since been plugged back to a shallower depth.
Most of the wells that have been drilled in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, she pointed out, remain closed because of operator negligence or poor geology. For example, Mills said the Highland No. 5 injection well in Brookfield operated for about a month, only to be shut-in earlier this year because of problems.
The Hray Well in Hubbard, which was drilled several years ago, is also shut-in, she said. “I see a lot of similarities in these problematic wells.”
Indeed, of the 24 injection wells drilled throughout Trumbull County, just eight are reported as active, Mills said.
If activated, Coitsville would be the second injection well operated by Bobcat in Mahoning County. The company also operates an injection well in North Lima that was owned by D&L.
According to ODNR records, the North Lima well accepted 628,994 barrels of wastewater in 2018 – 612,845 barrels of which came from out-of-state. By comparison, the four other injection wells operating in Mahoning County collectively accepted just 88,039 barrels.
In Trumbull County, the eight wells there accepted just more than 2 million barrels in 2018.
Bobcat has also applied for a permit to drill a new injection well in Hubbard Township in Trumbull County, according to ODNR records.
Class II injection wells are used to store contaminated wastewater that is produced during oil and gas exploration – especially from a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That process uses large volumes of water, sand and chemicals that are injected into the well in order to fracture tight shale formations and unleash trapped oil and gas molecules.
The most common method of disposing fracking wastewater in Ohio is through Class II injection wells. At last count, there were more than 200 of these wells in operation across the state.
“Injection volume in Ohio has gone up every year since 2011, and I’m just not sure how much more our strata can take,” Mills said. “We’re into the billions of gallons now.”*
The comments by anti Teresa Mills must be put into context. She uses the typical technique of quoting facts out of context. Like, “We’re into the billions of gallons now” of pumping wastewater down Ohio’s injection wells.
Folks in the business know there’s two kinds of “wastewater” coming out of shale (and conventional) wells: (1) flowback, or the water and sand (and little bit of chemicals) that come back out of the hole following hydraulic fracturing; and (2) brine, or “produced water” that comes out of the hole for months and years after flowback quits coming out. It’s called brine because it’s “salty,” with lots of minerals. This is not water from near the surface that’s part of the water cycle, the water we use for drinking. No. This is “water from the depths”–from a mile or more down. It’s there naturally. Did you know there’s a virtual ocean beneath us? It’s true!
Most of the wastewater that gets disposed in Ohio’s injection wells is brine, or produced water. Not flowback as implied in the article above. As for “billions of gallons”–the billions of gallons of water originally came from deep down in the rock, so why not put it back?
Our revelation about the environmental benefits of injection wells came during the National Association of Royalty Owners’ Pennsylvania annual meeting held in March 2018. MDN editor Jim Willis heard Scott Perry, head of the oil and gas division of the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection, strongly endorse wastewater injection wells as one of the *best ways* to get rid of brine. Perry said that sometimes brine has low levels of radioactivity and even with recycling, it can (over time) potentially harm the environment when releasing it on the surface via streams and rivers. Perry prefers pumping brine back down into the ground from whence it came.
But won’t the brine find a way to leak back out of the ground again–potentially into groundwater supplies? Perry said the liquids that were previously in deep water injection wells (oil and gas) were locked down there for millions of years and never leaked out. With proper capping, neither will brine.
So yes, using injection wells are *good* for the environment. Something we should support. Ms. Mills’ hysterical claims of damage to the environment from pumping “billions of gallons” of brine down injection wells are false.
*Youngstown (OH) Business Journal (Mar 25, 2019) – Work Underway at Injection Well Idled by Quake
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