Study of Earthquakes Brings New Injection Well Regulations

A few months after earthquakes shook the ground in the Youngstown area, the aftershocks are rumbling through the oil and gas industry in the form of stricter regulations on injection wells from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

As reported by many sources in our area and everywhere else, including The Globe and Mail and The Canton Repository, the DNR announced on Friday their conclusions in investigations of the earthquakes that occurred last year.

"Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress, causing movement along that fault," the DNR report states.  More after the jump...

The Northstar 1 injection was closed down by the state on December 30, one day before the final quake took place.  The first earthquake occurred on March 17, 2011.

In response to their findings, the DNR will require several increased safety measures at all new Class II disposal well permit applications as well as some existing sites.  These changes will include a requirement to review existing geologic data for known faults and prohibiting new Class II disposal wells in areas with faults.  There will also be no drilling to Precambrian bedrock, the location of the Northstar 1 activity.  There will also be new state-of-the-art pressure and volume monitoring equipment installed at new wells and any existing wells that don't already have the equipment.  This will include automatic shut-offs and electronic data recorders.  Brine haulers will also be required to install electronic transponders on their vehicles to monitor shipments.

The Ohio quakes weren't the first to be tied to injection well drilling.  Similar occurrences have been reported in Texas, Arkansas, the United Kingdom, and British Columbia.  None of the quakes have caused serious damage or injuries.  However, geologist John Clague of Simon Fraser University warns that this shouldn't necessarily quell all concerns about the seriousness of these occurrences.

"Just because past earthquakes have all been small doesn't mean you couldn't get a larger one," he says.

While the oil and gas industry urges the state not to overreact to a single occurrence and allow it to overshadow all of the wells that have been operated without these sorts of issues, they won't have a choice but to comply with the new regulations.

If you want to find out about what injection well drilling actually is, click here to learn more.

What do you think of Ohio's new measures in the wake of these earthquakes?  Overreaction, or just prudent measures?  Discuss it here or in the forum!

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