On New Year’s Eve 2011, Northeast Ohio was rocked by a 4.0 earthquake.
That quake was traced to an disposal well near Youngstownn where salty drilling wastes were injected into underground rocks for disposal.
That well, operated by D&L Energy Inc., was quickly shut down by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
That quake led ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management to quietly begin installing mobile seismic devices near other injection wells in seven counties in eastern Ohio.
To date, the state’s seismic devices have turned up no evidence of problems at those injections wells, said state spokesman Mark Bruce.
The expanded state seismic system is enabling Ohio to keep a high-tech closer eye on its injection wells.
To date, Ohio has installed 19 of the devices, each of which costs about $22,000, he said. "We feel that it is a very worthwhile investment," he said.
Another four devices are yet to be installed by the state.
In addition, private companies with Ohio injection wells installed an additional eight seismic devices and are providing that information to Columbus.
The counties getting the most seismic devices are Trumbull, Mahoning and Washington.
Trumbull (Warren) got five state devices plus four stations installed by private companies. Mahoning (Youngstown) got two state devices and four private devices. Washington County (Marietta) got five stations from the state.
Trumbull County with 21 injection wells was No. 1 in Ohio for injection wastes. More than 2.3 million barrels were injected in 2013. Portage County was No. 2 with almost 2 million barrels and Stark County was No. 9 with nearly 608,000 barrels.
Ohio had 194 injection wells, as of Dec. 31. In 2013, Ohio injected 16.3 million barrel, a 15 percent increase from 2012. About half of what is injected in Ohio comes from other states including Pennsylvania.
The state and the drilling industry say that injection wells are the best and safest way to get rid of drilling wastes. Activists say they fear that injection wells will trigger quakes and contaminate drinking water.
The other Ohio counties getting state seismic equipment are Tuscarawas, two stations; Muskingum, one station; Harrison, two stations; and Meigs, two stations.
The first devices were installed in 2012 and the state ramped up its installations in 2013, he said.
The state is working with California-based Hasting Microseismic Consulting.
The devices require drilling a hole about 9 feet deep. The device, about 1 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter, is then inserted into the pipe. The information is relayed via a wireless cell phone monitor to ODNR’s offices in Columbus. The information is also available to state staffers in the field on laptops.
If the injection well is 5,000 feet deep, the device would ideally be about 5,000 feet away from the well, Bruce said.
The state can also install multiple devices around particular injection wells, he said.
The devices measure and pinpoint quakes. They do nothing in terms of predicting or forecasting quakes, he said.
The expanded state seismic system is providing "great information," Bruce said.
It has shown state officials that Ohio has numerous small earthquakes, most of which cannot be felt by people but are detected and measured by the seismic gear, he said.
ODNR is planning to keep the portable devices in place for about a year and then to move them to new locations, if no problems are reported, Bruce said.
The new seismic equipment is totally separate from ODNR’s Ohio Seismic Network coordinated by Mike Hansen. That system has 29 participating devices.
In 1999, Ohio had one seismic device. Today there are more than 50 counting federal, state, universities and private devices, Bruce said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.