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Seismic Monitoring Devices Being Installed Across Eastern Ohio

More than three years after a New Year’s Eve 2011 magnitude-4.0 earthquake rattled Youngstown, OH, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has begun installing portable seismic monitoring stations across the eastern half of the state to monitor Class II underground injection wells similar to one linked to a Youngstown quake.

The event prompted ODNR to shut down that injection well, impose a moratorium on others within a five-mile radius and update its program (see Shale Daily, March 12, 2012), which gave it the authority to conduct seismic monitoring or require private companies that drill injection wells to install the devices.

The move also comes after another magnitude-3.0 earthquake in the Youngstown area in March that regulators linked to a horizontal well that was being hydraulically fractured (fracked) by Hilcorp Energy Co. (see Shale Daily, March 11; March 12). A month later, ODNR made a first-of-its-kind move by setting forth new permitting conditions that require any horizontal drilling applicant to install seismic monitoring devices within three miles of a known fault line (see Shale Daily, April 11).

ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce told NGI's Shale Daily that drilling operations at the Hilcorp site in Poland Township, about eight miles southeast of Youngstown, remain idle as the company has yet to install the seismic devices required to continue with operations. He said no other operators have submitted a permit application for drilling near faults since the conditions were implemented.

ODNR is in the process of installing 23 seismic monitors. Another eight have been installed by private companies operating, or planning to operate, underground injection wells to dispose of flowback and production fluids generated by oil and gas wells.

When the monitoring installations are completed, Bruce said the devices would form a network capable of indirectly detecting any seismic activity that occurs in close proximity to nearby wells. Devices have been installed in Trumbull, Mahoning, Washington and Tuscarawas counties, among others.

A hole is drilled about nine feet into the ground, into which a plastic pipe is extended. Measuring equipment, about one-foot tall and three feet in diameter, is inserted into the pipe and connected to a nearby wireless modem, which relays remote signals to field personnel and ODNR headquarters in Columbus.

Unless seismic activity is recorded, Bruce said the portable stations would likely stay in place for about a year before being moved to a different location.

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