GUERNSEY CO. — Driving down one of Guernsey County’s winding picturesque country roads, enjoying the peace and serenity, you might not realize you passed an underground injection well site — if you had not witnessed tanker trucks pulling in and out of an otherwise unobtrusive facility.
Situated on two acres just outside of Claysville the Devco Unit 1 Class II injection well, built in 2007, is the first of two injection wells drilled by David R. Hill, Inc. in Westland Township.
Hill, a petroleum geologist and oil producer for more than 30 years, led a tour of the site for members of the media.
“We have 20 different independent contractors who use this facility to dispose of brine, or wastewater, from the hydraulic fracturing process. This process is the best and safest way of disposing of unwanted fluids,” said Hill.
“This is a 24-7 operation ... We receive approximately 40 trucks a day, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. hauling three to four thousand barrels of brine, which comes in faster than we can process it,” he said. “We receive the water during the day and pump it into the ground at night.”
Hill said about 50 percent of the brine comes from the Marcellus Shale Play in West Virginia or Pennsylvania, the rest is from the Utica Shale well sites in Ohio.
The facility is run by three full-time employees, including a secretary, two engineers and Hill.
“The process and production at the site is checked on a daily basis, by either an engineer or myself,” he said. “ODNR inspectors are here twice a week.”
As Hill began the tour a tanker truck rolled in and gave observers a real-time demonstration.
The truck hooked up to one of the intake pumps, which draws the water to one of 21 storage tanks which hold 210 barrels of brine. Each barrel contains 42 gallons, which equates to 8,400 gallons per tank. (The terms waste water and brine are used interchangeably).
“After the dirt and debris is removed from the waste water by a filtering process, it is pumped into the well under a maximum of 1,600 pounds of pressure to approximately 8,900 feet below the surface.”
Hill added that a “minute” amount of crude oil is also retrieved during the process and creates another small amount of revenue.
The actual wellhead stands alone behind the tanks and covers an area about the size of an automobile parking space, fenced off and chained.
“Everything is self-contained for safety and protection of the environment,” he said. “The dike that surrounds the processing area was built under construction and inspection by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The dike can hold 11/2 times the volume of ALL full tanks ... Even the rainwater is collected and pumped back into the well,” said Hill.
All Class II injection wells are subject to the Clean Water Act.
According to the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, the brine solution that is safely disposed of through injection back into brine-bearing or depleted oil and gas formations deep below the surface is performed under proper regulation by the ODNR and guidelines created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The USEPA sets class distinctions for different types of injection wells used nationwide. “Class II injection wells are constructed with three layers of steel and three layers of concrete casings ... We drill until we reach Beekmantown dolomite and Rose Run sandstone. We put the water back into the Earth where it came from,” said Hill.
Background on Class II injection wells from Energy in Depth, the Ohio Project:
• The use of injection wells is regulated under the Underground Injection Control program of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, passed in Congress in 1974.
• Ohio is home to 181 Class II injection wells. In 2011, Ohio accepted an estimated 1.03 million gallons of wastewater for disposal per day, less than .05 percent of the total nationwide. The use of injection wells as a safe disposal means for produced water in Ohio was mandated in 1985 with the passage of House Bill 501, a bipartisan bill.
• Wastewater is produced in oil and gas context whether or not a well is fractured, whether or not a well is vertical or horizontal, and whether or not the target formation is shale, sandstone or limestone. Injection wells have nothing to do with the current debate over shale, fracturing and/or horizontal drilling.