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Ohio Accepted More Wastewater in 2012, But Now On Decline

Injection wells in Ohio handled more wastewater from oil and gas drilling in 2012, especially from out-of-state sources in the Marcellus and Utica shales, but they are on pace to handle less of the material in 2013.

According to data from the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program -- part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Mineral Resources Management Oil and Gas Division (MRMD) -- injection wells in Ohio handled 14.2 million bbl of wastewater in 2012. More wastewater came from out-of-state sources (8.2 million bbl, or 57.6% of the annual total) than from operations in Ohio (6.0 million bbl, 42.4%).

The 2012 figures are a 12.4% increase from the total amount of wastewater that was disposed at Ohio's injection wells in 2011. That year the state's injection wells disposed of 12.6 million bbl of wastewater -- 5.8 million bbl (45.7%) from Ohio sources and 6.8 million bbl (54.3%) from out of state.

Most of the out-of-state wastewater comes from drilling in neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia (see Shale Daily, June 24, 2011).

But the ODNR also reported that it handled just 3.3 million bbl of wastewater during the first quarter of 2013. That includes 1.8 million bbl (55.4%) of wastewater from out-of-state oil and gas drilling, and 1.5 million bbl (44.6%) from operators in Ohio. It was the smallest amount recorded for out-of-state wastewater since 2Q2011, when Ohio took in 1.6 million bbl.

"The figures for the first quarter of 2013 indicate a slowdown in volume," ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce told NGI's Shale Daily on Monday. "We attribute this to decreased drilling in Pennsylvania and increased reuse of hydraulic fracturing [fracking] fluid on drilling sites in Ohio."

Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA), told NGI's Shale Daily that the ODNR needs to issue permits for more Class II injection wells in order to maintain an affordable capacity for in-state operators.

"Ohio operators have been required to use Class II injection wells as the sole means to manage their wastewater production stream," Stewart said Monday. "With this increase in produced water from other states, we need to make sure that there's capacity there for Ohio's producers. They've been paying the fees into the system, we don't want them to get shut out."

Stewart added that although he wishes regulators in Pennsylvania "would take care of their own issues," he said many of the oil and gas companies operating in the Keystone State are also drilling in Ohio.

"All of these operators are trying to do a prudent job with recycling their fracking fluid," Stewart said. "Recycling is a technology that has gotten very well developed."

In April 2011, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, at the direction of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, asked Marcellus operators to stop delivering their wastewater to municipal facilities in Pennsylvania (see Shale Daily, April 20, 2011). The next month, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association said many operators were having their wastewater hauled to Ohio (see Shale Daily, May 20, 2011).

Ohio's injection wells caught the public's attention after a dozen small earthquakes hit the Youngstown area in 2011. An investigation by the ODNR found that the earthquakes may have been caused by a Class II injection well in Youngstown owned by D&L Energy Inc. (see Shale Daily, March 12, 2012; Jan. 5, 2012). The well remains offline and depressurized.

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