WINDHAM TWP.: The injection well for liquid wastes from drilling is, frankly, not much to look at.
Three pipes — one red and two yellow — poke out of the ground about five feet at a farm off state Route 303 in northeast Portage County.
Attached is a small solar panel and devices to measure pressure inside the well that goes down 3,900 feet.
It was the star of the show on Wednesday as the Ohio Oil & Gas Association staged a show-and-tell event to explain injection wells to the media and to try to improve the now-tarnished image of the wells.
Injection wells play a key role in Ohio for safely disposing of briny drilling wastes. They are the preferred disposal method, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
However, many are concerned about earthquakes in Youngstown and other states triggered by such wells and the threat those wells pose to drinking water. Some Ohio communities have proposed bans on injection wells. Eco-groups have charged that state oversight is lax.
The association’s campaign included a similar program earlier in southeast Ohio to boost the image of injection wells.
Ohio has 179 active injection wells and that number is likely to grow to 300 to 350 wells in the next five years, said David Hill of Guernsey County, an association vice president and the owner-operator of three injection wells.
The tour of the Windham Township facility was led by David Ballentine, owner of two companies in Portage County’s Freedom Township: B & B Oilfield Service Inc. that operates six injection wells and Northeast Ohio Oilfield Service Inc. that trucks drilling wastes.
Injection wells are “very underwhelming to look at,” Hill said.
“It is a relatively simple process,” he said. “It works. It’s efficient and it’s safe.”
The volume of shale drilling liquids going into Ohio’s injection wells continues to swell.
There is little evidence that the flood is slowing down — with more drilling wastes coming from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
In 2012, Ohio injection wells accepted 13,989,646 42-gallon barrels of the liquid wastes, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and its Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management.
That is an increase of nearly 1.4 million barrels or a hike of 11 percent from 2011.
That is equal to 588 million gallons of waste, enough to equal the flow of the Niagara River over Niagara Falls for 65 minutes. That volume is also equal to a train of railroad tank cars stretching 220 miles from Akron to the outskirts of Cincinnati.
Ohio’s 2012 total includes 5.9 million barrels of Ohio drilling liquids, plus 8 million barrels from out of state.
The 2012 liquids from Ohio account for 42.5 percent of the state total. The out-of-state shipments account for 57.5 percent.
In 2011, Ohio got 12,597,110 barrels of liquids: 46 percent from Ohio and 54 percent from other states.
Ohio cannot block the out-of-state shipments because it is interstate commerce and is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Ohio’s geology is better suited to such wells than the geology of Pennsylvania and New York, and that’s why Ohio has more injection wells, he said.
Permitting injection wells in Ohio is much easier than it is Pennsylvania or West Virginia where federal approval is required, he said.
Ohio is not being flooded by drilling wastes from other states, Hill said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
Ohio accepts one half of 1 percent of liquid wastes that get injected daily in the United States and there is no evidence that Ohio is getting a disproportionate share, he said.
There are 144,000 injection wells in the U.S.
Ohio has tightened its rules on injection wells and inspects operations frequently, said Hill and Ballentine.
The Portage injection well is just a short distance from a tanker unloading dock, six storage tanks, a system to filter the liquid wastes and a pump.
The system is designed to remove dirt and debris from the fluids to protect the well equipment.
That Portage well typically handles about 250 barrels of locally produced briny waste per day from vertical-only wells, said Ballentine whose companies together have about 20 employees.
That injection well can handle up to 800 barrels or 10 truckloads as a maximum daily load, he said.
The well was started as a natural gas well in 1986. It was later plugged. It was purchased in 1995 by Ballentine.
It has steel cement casings to protect underground water supplies.
His six injection wells handle about 1,200 barrels a day, he said.
He has a state permit for a seventh well but it is not yet operational.
Ballentine said he has no interest in expanding into the Utica shale that is developing in eastern Ohio.
“That’s a whole other world from where I’m at,” he said.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.