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The Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio, Part II

OH Utica Production, Water Usage, and Waste Disposal by County
Part II of a Multi-part Series
By Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

In this part of our ongoing “Water-Energy Nexus” series focusing on Water and Water Use, we are looking at how counties in Ohio differ between how much oil and gas are produced, as well as the amount of water used and waste produced. This analysis also highlights how the OH DNR’s initial Utica projections differ dramatically from the current state of affairs. In the first article in this series, we conducted an analysis of OH’s water-energy nexus showing that Utica wells are using an ave. of 5 million gallons/well. As lateral well lengths increase, so does water use. In this analysis we demonstrate that:

  1. Drillers have to use more water, at higher pressures, to extract the same unit of oil or gas that they did years ago,
  2. Where production is relatively high, water usage is lower,
  3. As fracking operations move to the perimeter of a marginally productive play – and smaller LLCs and MLPs become a larger component of the landscape – operators are finding minimal returns on $6-8 million in well pad development costs,
  4. Market forces and Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) policy has allowed industry to exploit OH’s freshwater resources at bargain basement prices relative to commonly agreed upon water pricing schemes.

At current prices1, the shale gas industry is allocating < 0.27% of total well pad costs to current – and growing – freshwater requirements. It stands to reason that this multi-part series could be a jumping off point for a more holistic discussion of how we price our “endless” freshwater resources here in OH.

In an effort to better understand the inter-county differences in water usage, waste production, and hydrocarbon productivity across OH’s 19 Utica Shale counties we compiled a data-set for 500+ Utica wells which was previously used to look at differenced in these metrics across the state’s primary industry players. The results from Table 1 below are discussed in detail in the subsequent sections.

Table 1. Hydrocarbon production totals and per day values with top three producers in bold

County

# Wells

Total

Per Day

Oil

Gas

Brine

Production

Days

Oil

Gas

Brine

Ashland

1

0

0

23,598

102

0

0

231

Belmont

32

55,017

39,564,446

450,134

4,667

20

8,578

125

Carroll

256

3,715,771

121,812,758

2,432,022

66,935

67

2,092

58

Columbiana

26

165,316

9,759,353

189,140

6,093

20

2,178

65

Coshocton

1

949

0

23,953

66

14

0

363

Guernsey

29

726,149

7,495,066

275,617

7,060

147

1,413

49

Harrison

74

2,200,863

31,256,851

1,082,239

17,335

136

1,840

118

Jefferson

14

8,396

9,102,302

79,428

2,819

2

2,447

147

Knox

1

0

0

9,078

44

0

0

206

Mahoning

3

2,562

0

4,124

287

9

0

14

Medina

1

0

0

20,217

75

0

0

270

Monroe

12

28,683

13,077,480

165,424

2,045

22

7,348

130

Muskingum

1

18,298

89,689

14,073

455

40

197

31

Noble

39

1,326,326

18,251,742

390,791

7,731

268

3,379

267

Portage

2

2,369

75,749

10,442

245

19

168

228

Stark

1

17,271

166,592

14,285

602

29

277

24

Trumbull

8

48,802

742,164

127,222

1,320

36

566

100

Tuscarawas

1

9,219

77,234

2,117

369

25

209

6

Washington

3

18,976

372,885

67,768

368

59

1,268

192

Production

Total

It will come as no surprise to the reader that OH’s Utica oil and gas production is being led by Carroll County, followed distantly by Harrison, Noble, Belmont, Guernsey and Columbiana counties. Carroll has produced 3.7 million barrels of oil to date, while the latter have combined to produce an additional 4.5 million barrels. Carroll wells have been in production for nearly 67,000 days2, while the aforementioned county wells have been producing for 42,886 days. The remaining counties are home to 49 wells that have been in production for nearly 8,800 days or 7% of total production days in Ohio.

Combined with the state’s remaining 49 producing wells spread across 13 counties, OH’s Utica Shale has produced 8.3 million barrels of oil as well as 251,844,311 Mcf3 of natural gas and 5.4 million barrels of brine. Oil and natural gas together have an estimated value of $2.99 billion ($213 million per quarter)4 assuming average oil and natural gas prices of $96 per barrel and $8.67 per Mcf during the current period of production (2011 to Q2-2014), respectively.

Potential Revenue at Different Severance Tax Rates:

  • Current production tax, 0.5-0.8%: $19 million ($1.4 Million Per Quarter (MPQ). At this rate it would take the oil and gas industry 35 years to generate the $4.6 billion in tax revenue they proposed would be generated by 2020.
  • Proposed, 1% gas and 4% oil: At Governor Kasich’s proposed tax rate, $2.99 billion translates into $54 million ($3.9 MPQ). It would still take 21 years to return the aforementioned $4.6 billion to the state’s coffers.
  • Proposed, 5-7%: Even at the proposed rate of 5-7% by Policy Matters OH and northeastern OH Democrats, the industry would only have generated $179 million ($12.8 MPQ) to date. It would take 11 years to generate the remaining $4.42 billion in tax revenue promised by OH Oil and Gas Association’s (OOGA) partners at IHS “Energy Oil & Gas Industry Solutions” (NYSE: IHS).5

The bottom-line is that a production tax of 11-25% or more ($24-53 MPQ) would be necessary to generate the kind of tax revenue proposed by the end of 2020. This type of O&G taxation regime is employed in the states of Alaska and Oklahoma.

From an outreach and monitoring perspective, effects on air and water quality are two of the biggest gaps in our understanding of shale gas from a socioeconomic, health, and environmental perspective. Pulling out a mere 1% from any of these tax regimes would generate what we’ll call an “Environmental Monitoring Fee.” Available monitoring funds would range between $194,261 and $1.8 million ($16 million at 55%). These monies would be used to purchase 2-21 mobile air quality devices and 10-97 stream quantity/quality gauges to be deployed throughout the state’s primary shale counties to fill in the aforementioned data gaps.

Per-Day Production

On a per-day oil production basis, Belmont and Columbiana (20 barrels per day (BPD)) are overshadowed by Washington (59 BPD) and Muskingum (40 BPD) counties’ four giant Utica wells. Carroll is able to maintain such a high level of production relative to the other 15 counties by shear volume of producing wells; Noble (268 BPD), Guernsey (147 BPD), and Harrison (136 BPD) counties exceed Carroll’s production on a per-day basis. The bottom of the league table includes three oil-free wells in Ashland, Knox, and Medina, as well as seventeen <10 BPD wells in Jefferson and Mahoning counties.

With respect to natural gas, Harrison (1,840 Mcf per day (MPD)) and Guernsey counties are replaced by Monroe (7,348 MPD) and Jefferson (2,447 MPD) counties’ 26 Utica wells. The range of production rates for natural gas is represented by the king of natural gas producers, Belmont County, producing 8,578 MPD on the high end and Mahoning and Coshocton counties in addition to the aforementioned oil dry counties on the low end. Four of the five oil- or gas-dry counties produce the least amount of brine each day (BrPD). Coshocton, Medina, and Noble county Utica wells are currently generating 267-363 barrels of BrPD, with an additional seven counties generating 100-200 BrPD. Only four counties – 1.2% of OH Utica wells – are home to unconventional wells that generate ≤ 30 BrPD.

Water Usage

Freshwater is needed for the hydraulic fracturing process during well stimulation. For counties where we had compiled a respectable sample size we found that Monroe and Noble counties are home to the Utica wells requiring the greatest amount of freshwater to obtain acceptable levels of productivity (Figure 1). Monroe and Noble wells are using 10.6 and 8.8 million gallons (MGs) of water per well. Coshocton is home to a well that required 10.8 MGs, while Muskingum and Washington counties are home to wells that have utilized 10.2 and 9.5 MGs, respectively. Belmont, Guernsey, and Harrison reflect the current average state of freshwater usage by the Utica Shale industry in OH, with average requirements of 6.4, 6.9, and 7.2 MGs per well. Wells in eight other counties have used an average of 3.8 (Mahoning) to 5.4 MGs (Tuscarawas). The counties of Ashland, Knox, and Medina are home to wells requiring the least amount of freshwater in the range of 2.2-2.9 MGs. Overall freshwater demand on a per well basis is increasing by 220,500-333,300 gallons per quarter in Ohio with percent recycled water actually declining by 00.54% from an already trivial average of 6-7% in 2011 (Figure 2).

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale.

Figure 1. Average water usage (gallons) per Utica well by county

Average water usage (gallons) on a per well basis by OH’s Utica Shale industry, shown quarterly between Q3-2010 and Q2-2014.

Figure 2. Average water usage (gallons) on per well basis by OH Utica Shale industry, shown quarterly between Q3-2010 & Q2-2014.

Belmont County’s 30+ Utica wells are the least efficient with respect to oil recovery relative to freshwater requirements, averaging 7,190 gallons of water per gallon of oil (Figure 3). A distant second is Jefferson County’s 14 wells, which have required on average 3,205 gallons of water per gallon of oil. Columbiana’s 26 Utica wells are in third place requiring 1,093 gallons of freshwater. Coshocton, Mahoning, Monroe, and Portage counties are home to wells requiring 146-473 gallons for each gallon of oil produced.

Belmont County’s 14 Utica wells are the least efficient with respect to natural gas recovery relative to freshwater requirements (Figure 4). They average 1,306 gallons of water per Mcf. A distant second is Carroll County’s 250+ wells, which have injected 520 gallons of water 7,000+ feet below the earth’s service to produce a single Mcf of natural gas. Muskingum’s Utica well and Noble County’s 39 wells are the only other wells requiring more than 100 gallons of freshwater per Mcf. The remaining nine counties’ wells require 15-92 gallons of water to produce an Mcf of natural gas.

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale – Average Water Usage Per Unit of Oil Produced (Gallons of Water Per Gallon of Oil).

Figure 3. Average water usage (gallons) per unit of oil (gallons) produced across 19 Ohio Utica counties

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale – Average Water Usage Per Unit of Gas Produced (Gallons of Water Per MCF of Gas)

Figure 4. Average water usage (gallons) per unit of gas produced (Mcf) across 19 Ohio Utica counties

Waste Production

The aforementioned Jefferson wells are the least efficient with respect to waste vs. product produced. Jefferson wells are generating 12,728 gallons of brine per gallon of oil (Figure 5).6 Wells from this county are followed distantly by the 32 Belmont and 26 Columbiana county wells, which are generating 5,830 and 3,976 gallons of brine per unit of oil.5 The remaining counties (for which we have data) are using 8-927 gallons of brine per unit of oil; six counties’ wells are generating <38 gallons of brine per gallon of oil.

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale – Average Brine Production Per Unit of Oil Produced (Gallons of Brine Per Gallon of Oil)

Figure 5. Average brine production (gallons) per gallon of oil produced per day across 19 Ohio Utica Counties

The average Utica well in OH is generating 820 gallons of fracking waste per unit of product produced. Across all OH Utica wells, an average of 0.078 gallons of brine is being generated for every gallon of freshwater used. This figure amounts to a current total of 233.9 MGs of brine waste produce statewide. Over the next five years this trend will result in the generation of one billion gallons (BGs) of brine waste and 12.8 BGs of freshwater required in OH. Put another way…

233.9 MGs is equivalent to the annual waste production of 5.2 million Ohioans – or 45% of the state’s current population. 

Due to the low costs incurred by industry when they choose to dispose of their fracking waste in OH, drillers will have only to incur $100 million over the next five years to pay for the injection of the above 1.0 BGs of brine. Ohioans, however, will pay at least $1.5 billion in the same time period to dispose of their municipal solid waste. The average fee to dispose of every ton of waste is $32, which means that the $100 million figure is at the very least $33.5 million – and as much as $250.6 million – less than we should expect industry should be paying to offset the costs.

Environmental Accounting

In summary, there are two ways to look at the potential “energy revolution” that is shale gas:

  1. Using the same traditional supply-side economics metrics we have used in the past (e.g., globalization, Efficient Market Hypothesis, Trickle Down Economics, Bubbles Don’t Exist) to socialize long-term externalities and privatize short-term windfall profits, or
  2. We can begin to incorporate into the national dialogue issues pertaining to watershed resilience, ecosystem services, and the more nuanced valuation of our ecosystems via Ecological Economics.

The latter will require a more real-time and granular understanding of water resource utilization and fracking waste production at the watershed and regional scale, especially as it relates to headline production and the often-trumpeted job generating numbers.

We hope to shed further light on this new “environmental accounting” as it relates to more thorough and responsible energy development policy at the state, federal, and global levels. The life cycle costs of shale gas drilling have all too often been ignored and can’t be if we are to generate the types of energy our country demands while also stewarding our ecosystems. As Mark Twain is reported to have said “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” In order to avoid such a battle over the water-energy nexus in the long run it is imperative that we price in the shale gas industry’s water-use footprint in the near term. As we have demonstrated so far with this series this issue is far from settled here in OH and as they say so goes Ohio so goes the nation!

A Moving Target

ODNR projection map of potential Utica productivity from Spring, 2012

Figure 6. ODNR projection map of potential Utica productivity from spring 2012

OH’s Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) originally claimed a big red – and nearly continuous – blob of Utica productivity existed. The projection originally stretched from Ashtabula and Trumbull counties south-southwest to Tuscarawas, Guernsey, and Coshocton along the Appalachian Plateau (See Figure 6).

However, our analysis demonstrates that (Figures 7 and 8):

  1. This is a rapidly moving target,
  2. The big red blob isn’t as big – or continuous – as once projected, and
  3. It might not even include many of the counties once thought to be the heart of the OH Utica shale play.

This last point is important because counties, families, investors, and outside interests were developing investment and/or savings strategies based on this map and a 30+ year timeframe – neither of which may be even remotely close according to our model.

An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model for Q1-2013 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 7a. An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model using Kriging6 for Q1-2013

An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model for Q2-2014 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 7b. An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model using Kriging for Q2-2014

An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model for Q1-2013 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 8a. An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model using Kriging for Q1-2013

An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model for Q2-2014 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 8b. An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model using Kriging for Q2-2014


Footnotes

  1. $4.25 per 1,000 gallons, which is the current going rate for freshwater at OH’s MWCD New Philadelphia headquarters, is 4.7-8.2 times less than residential water costs at the city level according to Global Water Intelligence.
  2. Carroll County wells have seen days in production jump from 36-62 days in 2011-2012 to 68-78 in 2014 across 256 producing wells as of Q2-2014.
  3. One Mcf is a unit of measurement for natural gas referring to 1,000 cubic feet, which is approximately enough gas to run an American household (e.g. heat, water heater, cooking) for four days.
  4. Assuming average oil and natural gas prices of $96 per barrel and $8.67 per Mcf during the current period of production (2011 to Q2-2014), respectively
  5. IHS’ share price has increased by $1.7 per month since publishing a report about the potential of US shale gas as a job creator and revenue generator
  6. On a per-API# basis or even regional basis we have not found drilling muds data. We do have it – and are in the process of making sense of it – at the Solid Waste District level.
  7. An interpolative Geostatistical technique formally called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

The Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio, Part I

OH Utica Production, Water Usage, and Changes in Lateral Length
Part I of a Multi-part Series
By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

As shale gas expands in Ohio, how too does water use? We conducted an analysis of 500+ Utica wells in an effort to better understand the water-energy nexus in Ohio between production, water usage, and lateral length across 500+ Utica wells. The following is a list of the primary findings from this analysis:

Lateral Length

Modified EIA.gov Schematic Highlighting the Lateral Portion of the Well

Figure 1. Modified EIA schematic highlighting the lateral portion of the unconventional well

In unconventional oil and gas drilling, often operators need to drill both vertically and then laterally to follow the formation underground. This process increases the amount of shale that the well contacts (see the modified EIA schematic in Figure 1). As a general rule Ohio’s Utica wells transition to the horizontal or lateral phase at around 6,800 feet below the earth’s surface.

1. The average Utica lateral is increasing in length by 51-55 feet per quarter, up from an average of 6,369 feet between Q3-2010 and Q2-2011 to 6,872 feet in the last four quarters. Companies’ lateral length growth varies, for example:

    • Gulfport is increasing by 46 feet (+67,206 gallons of water),
    • R.E. Gas Development and Antero 92 feet (+134,412 gallons of water), and
    • Chesapeake 28 feet (+40,908 gallons of water).

2. An increase in lateral length accounts for 40% of the increase in the water usage, as we have discussed in the past.

3. As a general rule, every foot increase in lateral length equates to an increase of 1,461 gallons of freshwater.

Regional and County-Level Trends

This section looks into big picture of shale gas drilling in OH. Herein we summarize the current state of water usage by the Utica shale industry relative to hydrocarbon production, as a percentage of residential water usage, as well as long-term water usage and waste production forecasts.

1. Freshwater Use

    • Across 516 wells, we found that the average OH Utica well utilizes 5.04-5.69 million gallons of freshwater per well.
    • This figure includes a ratio of 12:1 freshwater to recycled water used on site.
    • Water usage is increasing by 221-330,000 gallons per well per quarter.
      • Note: In neighboring – and highly OH freshwater reliant-West Virginia, the average Marcellus well uses 6.1-6.6 million gallons per well, with a trend increase of 189-353,000 gallons per quarter per well.
      • Water usage is up from 4.88 million gallons per well between 2010 and the summer of 2011 to 7.27 million gallons today.
    • Over the next five years, we will likely see 18.5 billion gallons of freshwater used for shale gas drilling in OH.
    • On average, drilling companies use 588 gallons of water to get a gallon of oil.
      • Average: 338 gallons of water required to get 1 MCF of gas
      • Average: 0.078 gallons of brine produced per gallon of water

2. Residential Water Allocation

    • A portion of residential water (3.8-6.1% of usage) is being allocated to the Utica drilling boom.
      • This figure is as high as 81% of residential water requirements in Carroll County.
      • And amounts to 2.2-3.5% of the available water in the Muskingum River Watershed.
    • The allocation will increase over time to amount to 8.2-10.5% of residential usage or 4.4-5.6% of Muskingum River available water.

3. Permitted Wells Potential

    • If all permitted Utica wells were to come online (active), we could expect 299.7 million gallons of additional brine to be produced and an additional 220 million gallons of freshwater a year to be used.
    • This trend amounts to 1.1 billion gallons of fracking brine waste looking for a home within 5 years.

4. Waste Disposal

    • Stallion Oilfield Services has recently purchased several Class II Injection wells in Portage County.
    • These waste disposal sites are increasing their intake at a rate of 2.13 million gallons per quarter, 4.76 times that of the rest of OH Class II wells.

Water Usage By Company

The data trends we have reviewed vary significantly depending on the company that is assessed. Below we summarize the current state of water usage by the major players in Ohio’s Utica shale industry relative to hydrocarbon production. 

1. Overall Statistics

    • The 15 biggest Water-To-Oil offenders are currently averaging 16,844 Gallons of Water per gallon of oil (PGO) (i.e., Shugert 2-12H, Salem-Grubbs 1H, Stutzman 1 and 3-14H, etc).
    • Removing the above 15 brings the Water-To-Oil ratio down from 588 to 52 gallons of water PGO.
    • The 9 biggest Water-To-Gas offenders are currently averaging 16,699 gallons of water per MCF of gas.
    • Removing the above 9 brings the Water-To-Gas ratio down from 338 to 27 gallons of water per MCF of gas.

Company differences are noticeable (Figure 2):

Water Usage by Hydraulic Fracturing Industry in Ohio

Figure 2. Average Freshwater Use Among OH Utica Operators

    • Antero and Anadarko used an average of 9.5 and 8.8 MGs of water per well during the course of the 45-60 drilling process, respectively (Note: HG Energy has the wells with the highest water usage but a limited sample size, with 9.8 MGs per well).
    • Six companies average in the middle with 6.7-8.1 MGs of water per well.
    • Four companies average 5 MGs per well, including Chesapeake the biggest player here in OH.
    • Devon Energy is the one firm using less than 3 MGs of freshwater for each well it drills.

2. Water-to-Oil Ratios

Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio: Water-to-Oil Ratios Among OH Utica Operators

Figure 3. Water-to-Oil Ratios Among OH Utica Operators

Freshwater usage is increasing by 3.6 gallons per gallon of oil. Companies vary less in this metric, except for Gulfport (Figure 3):

    • Gulfport is by far the least efficient user of freshwater with respect to oil production, averaging 3,339 gallons of water to extract one gallon of oil.
    • Intermediate firms include American Energy and Hess, which required 661 and 842 gallons of freshwater to produce a gallon of oil.
    • The remaining eleven firms used anywhere from 6 (Atlas Noble) to 130 (Chesapeake) gallons of freshwater to get a unit of oil.

3. Water-to-Gas Ratios (Figure 4)

Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio: Water-to-Gas Ratio Among OH Utica Operators

Figure 4. Water-to-Gas Ratio Among OH Utica Operators

    • American Energy is also quite inefficient when it comes to natural gas production utilizing >2,200 gallons of freshwater per MCF of natural gas produced
    • Chesapeake and CNX rank a distant second, requiring 437 and 582 gallons of freshwater per MCF of natural gas, respectively.
    • The remaining firms for which we have data are using anywhere from 13 (RE Gas) to 81 (Gulfport) gallons of freshwater per MCF of natural gas.

4. Brine Production (Figure 5)

Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio: Brine-to-Oil Ratios among Ohio Utica Operators

Figure 5. Brine-to-Oil Ratios among Ohio Utica Operators

    • With respect to the relationship between hydrocarbon and waste generation, we see that no firm can match Oklahoma City-based Gulfport’s inefficiencies with an average of 2,400+ gallons of brine produced per gallon of oil.
    • American Energy and Hess are not as wasteful, but they are the only other firms generating more than 750 gallons brine waste per unit of oil.
    • Houston-based Halcon and OH’s primary Utica player Chesapeake Energy are generating slightly more than 400 gallons of brine per gallon of oil.
    • The remaining firms are generating between 17 (Atlas Noble and RE Gas) and 160 (Anadarko) gallons of brine per unit of oil.

Part II of the Series

In the next part of this series we will look into inter-county differences as they relate to water use, production, and lateral length. Additionally, we will also examine how the OH DNR’s initial Utica projections differ dramatically from the current state of affairs.

Water and Production in Ohio's Utica Shale - Water Per Well

Water and Production in Ohio’s Utica Shale – Water Per Well

 

In-depth Review of the Statoil Well Pad Fire

Commentary on Shale Gas Operations: First in a Series of Articles
By Bill Hughes, Community Liaison, FracTracker Alliance
Statoil Well Pad Fire: June 28-29, 2014

The early riser residents along Long Ridge Road in Monroe County are among the first in Ohio to see the sun coming up over the West Virginia hills.  It rose about 6:00 am on the morning of June 28th.  Everyone assumed that this would be a normal Saturday morning.  Well, at least as normal as it had been for the better part of two years since the site preparation and drilling started.

For those residents on Long Ridge who were not early risers, the blaring sirens, the smell of acrid smoke, and the presence of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles shortly after 9:00 am must surely have made them wonder if they were in the midst of a nightmare. A quick glance outside toward the Statoil Eisenbarth well pad and they would have seen this view:

Statoil 1

Figure 1. View from the southeast, as the fire spread on Sat. June 28th

The image in Fig. 1 would be enough to make most folks feel somewhat panicky and consider evacuating the neighborhood. That is exactly what soon happened – definitely not the start of a normal Saturday morning.

Adjusting to the New Normal

The traffic in the area had been a problem ever since site preparation started on the nearby well pad. The State expected the drillers to keep up the road. Crews also provided lead escort vehicles to help the many big trucks negotiate the narrow road way and to clear the residential traffic. Access to the well site required trucks to climb a two-mile hill up to the ridge top.

Statoil 2

Fig. 2. Neighbors’ views of the fire

Until June 28th, most folks had become accustomed to the extra noise, diesel fumes, and congestion and delays that always come with any shale gas well exploration and development in the Marcellus shale gas active area. Most of the neighbors had gotten used to the new normal and reluctantly tolerated it. Even that was about to change, dramatically.  As the sun got higher in the eastern sky over WV, around 9:00 AM, suddenly the sky started to turn dark. Very dark. Sirens wailed. Red trucks started a frenzied rush down Long Ridge from all directions. There was a fire on the well pad. Soon it became a very large, all consuming fire.  Smoke, fire, bitter fumes, and no one seemed to know yet exactly what had happened, and what was likely to happen soon.

This gas well location, called the Eisenbarth pad, recently changed operators. In January 2013, the well pad property and its existing well and equipment were bought out by Statoil, a company based in Norway.  Statoil had since drilled seven more wells, and even more were planned.  The original single well was in production.  Now in late spring and early summer of 2014 the new wells were to be “fracked.”  That means they were ready to be hydraulically fractured, a procedure that follows the completion of the drilling process.

Statoil hired as their fracturing sub-contractor Halliburton. All of the fracturing pump trucks, sand kings, Sand Castles, and control equipment were owned and operated by Halliburton.  The fracturing process had been ongoing for some weeks when the fire started. The eastern Ohio neighbors now watched ~$25 million worth of equipment go up in smoke and flames (Fig. 2). The billowing smoke was visible for over 10 miles.

Industrial accidents are not rare in the Ohio Valley

Many of the residents nearby had worked in the coal mining industry, aluminum plants, chemical plants, or the coal fired power plant that were up and down the Ohio River. Many had since retired and had their own industrial accident stories to tell. These were frequently private stories, however, which mostly just their co-workers knew about. In an industrial plant, the common four walls and a roof kept the dangerous processes confined and enabled a trained response to the accidents. The traditional, industrial workplace had well-proven, customized workplace safety standards.  Professional maintenance personnel were always nearby.  In stark contrast, unconventional gas well pads located in our rural communities are very different. They are put in our hayfields, near our homes, in our pastures and just down the road. You cannot hide a community accident like this.

Sept 2014 Update: Video of the fire, Copyright Ed Wade, Jr.

Print Media Coverage of the Fire

Within days, many newspapers were covering the well pad fire story. The two nearby weekly newspapers, one in Monroe County, Ohio and the other in Wetzel County, West Virginia both had detailed, long articles the following week.

Statoil 3

Fig. 3. View from the east as the fire started

The Monroe County Beacon on July 2, 2014 said that the fire spread quickly from the small original fire which was totally surrounded within the tangled complex of equipment and high pressure piping.  Early Saturday morning, the first responder would likely have seen a rather small somewhat localized fire as shown in Fig. 2. The photo to the right (Fig. 3) is the view from the east, where the access road is on Long Ridge road. This point is the only access into the Statoil well pad. The view below, showing some still intact tanker trucks in the foreground, is looking west toward the well location. Pay attention to the couple of trucks still visible.

The Monroe County emergency director said it was his understanding that the fire began with a ruptured hydraulic hose. The fluid then ignited on a hot surface. He said, “…by 9:10 AM the fire had spread to other pumps on the location and was spreading rapidly over the well pad.”   Emergency responders needed water now, lots of it. There is only one narrow public road to the site at the top of a very long, steep hill and only one narrow entrance to the densely congested equipment on the pad.  Many Volunteer Fire Departments from both Ohio and West Virginia responded.  A series of tanker trucks began to haul as much water to the site as possible.  The combined efforts of all the fire departments were at best able to control or contain but not extinguish the powerful, intensely hot and growing blaze.  The Volunteer firemen did all they could. The EMS director and Statoil were very grateful for the service of the Volunteer Fire Departments. There was a major loss of most equipment, but none of the 45-50 workers on site were injured.

Statoil 4

Fig. 4. Well pad entrance

The article from the Wetzel Chronicle also praised the coordinated effort of all the many fire departments. At first they attempted to fight the fire, and then prudently focused on just trying to limit the damage and hoping it did not spread to the well heads and off the well pad itself. The New Martinsville fire chief also said that,  “… the abundance of chemicals and explosives on the site, made attempts to halt the fire challenging, if not nearly impossible… Numerous plans to attack the fire were thwarted each time by the fires and numerous explosions…”  The intense heat ignited anything nearby that was at all combustible. There was not much choice but to let the fire burn out.

Eventually the view at the well pad entrance as seen from the east (Fig. 3) would soon look like the overhead view (Fig. 5). This aerial imagery shows what little remained after the fire was out – just some aluminum scrap melted into the decking is left of the original, white Hydrochloric Acid tanker truck. Everything near it is has almost vaporized.

Statoil 5

Figure 5. Post-fire equipment identification

Efforts to Limit the Fire

Statoil 6

Fig. 6. Protected white trailer

An excellent example of VFD’s successfully limiting the spread of the fire and controlling the extreme heat can be seen in the photo to the right (Fig. 6). This white storage trailer sure seems to be a most favored, protected, special and valuable container. It was.

It was filled with some particularly dangerous inventory. The first EPA report explains it thus:

A water curtain was maintained, using pump lines on site, to prevent the fire from spreading to a trailer containing 1,100 pounds of SP Breaker (an oxidizer), 200 pounds of soda ash and compressed gas cylinders of oxygen (3-2000 lb.), acetylene (2-2000 lb.), propane (6-20 lb.), among miscellaneous aerosol cans.

Statoil 7

Fig. 7. Post-fire pad layout

Yes, this trailer got special treatment, as it should. It contained some hazardous material.  It was also at the far southwest corner of the well pad with minimal combustibles near it.  That was also the closest corner to the nearby holding pond, which early on might have held fresh water. Now the holding pond is surely very contaminated from flowback and runoff.

The trailer location can be seen in the picture to the right in the red box (Fig. 7), which also shows the complete well pad and surrounding area. However, in comparison to the one white storage trailer, the remainder of the well pad did not fare so well. It was all toast, and very burned toast at that.

Columbus Dispatch and the Fish Kill

Besides the two local newspapers, and Wheeling Jesuit researchers, the Columbus Dispatch also covered the story and provided more details on the 3- to 5-mile long fish kill in the stream below the well pad. Additional facts were added by the two EPA reports:

Those reports list in some detail many of the chemicals, explosives, and radiological components on the well pad.  Reader note: Get out your chemical dictionary, or fire up your Google search. A few excerpts from the first EPA report are provided below.

…Materials present on the Pad included but was not limited to: diesel fuel, hydraulic oil, motor oil, hydrochloric acid, cesium-137 sources, hydrotreated light petroleum distillates, terpenes, terpenoids, isoproponal, ethylene glycol, paraffinic solvents, sodium persulfate, tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride and proprietary components… The fire and explosion that occurred on the Eisenbarth Well Pad involved more than 25,000 gallons of various products that were staged and/or in use on the site… uncontained run-off was exiting the site and entering an unnamed tributary of Opossum Creek to the south and west and flowback water from the Eisenbarth Well #7 was spilling onto the well pad.

Reader Warning:  If you found the above list overly alarming, you might choose to skip the next equally disturbing list. Especially since you now know that this all eventually flowed into our Ohio River.

The EPA report continues with more specific chemical products involved in the fire:

Initial reports identified the following products were involved and lost in the fire: ~250 gallons of hydrochloric acid (28%), ~7,040 gallons of GasPerm 1000 (terpenes, terpenoids, isopropanol, citrus extract, proprietary components), ~330 gallons of LCA-1 (paraffinic solvents), ~ 1900 gallons of LGC-36 UC (hydrotreated light petroleum distillate, guar gum), ~1000 gallons of BC-140 (monoethanolamine borate, ethylene glycol), ~3300 gallons of BE-9 (tributyl tetradecyl phosphonium chloride), ~30,000 gallons of WG-36 (polysaccharide gel), ~1,000 gallons of FR-66 (hydrotreated light petroleum distillate), ~9000 gallons of diesel fuel, ~300 gallons of motor and hydraulic oil.

Even more details of the incident and the on-site chemicals are given in the required Statoil 30-day report (PDF).

The EPA reports detail the “sheet” flow of unrestricted contaminated liquids off of the well pad during and after the fire. They refer to the west and south sides. The below Google Earth-based map (Fig. 8) shows the approximate flow from the well pad. The two unnamed tributaries join to form Opossum Creek, which then flows into the Ohio River four miles away.

Statoil 8

Figure 8. Map showing path of unrestricted flow off of the Statoil well pad due to a lack of berm

After describing some of the known chemicals on the well pad, the EPA report discusses the construction of a new berm, and where the liquid components flowed. Below is a selection of many excerpts strung together, from many days, taken directly from the EPA reports:

…unknown quantities of products on the well pad left the Site and entered an unnamed tributary of Opossum Creek that ultimately discharges to the Ohio River. Runoff left the pad at various locations via sheet flow….Initial inspections in the early hours of June 29, 2014 of Opossum Creek approximately 3.5 miles downstream of the site identified dead fish in the creek…. Equipment was mobilized to begin constructing an earthen berm to contain runoff and to flood the pad to extinguish remaining fires…. Once fires were extinguished, construction of a berm near the pad was begun to contain spilled liquids and future runoff from the well pad… Statoil continued construction of the containment berm currently 80% complete. (6-30-14)… Assessment of chemicals remaining on the well pad was completed. The earthen berm around the pad was completed,  (7-2-14)… ODNR Division of Wildlife completed their in stream assessment of the fish kill and reported an estimated 70,000 dead fish from an approximately 5 mile stretch extending from the unnamed tributary just west of the Eisenbarth Well Pad to Opossum Creek just before its confluence with the Ohio River… Fish collection was completed. In total, 11,116 dead fish were collected (20 different species), 3,519 crustaceans, 7 frogs and 20 salamanders.

The overall conclusion is clear. Large quantities of various chemicals, mixed with very large amounts of already contaminated water, when flooding a well pad that had no berms around it, resulted in a significant fish kill over several miles. After the fire Statoil then constructed a berm around the well pad. If there had been a pre-existing berm – just 12 inches high and level – around the well pad, it could have held over 600,000 gallons of runoff. That amount is twice the estimated quantity of water used to fight the fire.  (Note: my old 35 HP farm tractor and a single bottom plow can provide a 12-inch high mound of dirt in one pass.)

The significance for safe, potable drinking water, is that all the chemicals and petroleum products on the well pad either burned and went up in a toxic plume of black smoke, or were released in liquid form down into the well pad or flowed off of it. Since the original liner on the well pad also completely burned and there was no overall berm on the well pad, there was nothing to restrict the flow of polluted liquid. Therefore, it all seeped into the ground and/or ran off of the pad with the 300,000 gallons of water that was estimated to have been sprayed onto the burning equipment fire.

Follow Up Questions

Since this fire happened over 6 weeks ago, there have been many opportunities for nearby citizens and neighbors to meet and discuss their many concerns.  Many of the question have revolved around the overall lack of information about the process of shale gas fracturing, the equipment used, and the degree of risk that it all may present to our communities. These communities include the nearby residents, the travelling public, and all of the first responders. Unless someone has a well pad on or near their property and they are able to actively follow the process, it is usually difficult to find out the details of a specific gas operation. (We have even known of operators that have told landowners to get off of their own property both during drilling and fracturing operations and afterwards.)

Questions that follow incidents like this one typically look like this:

  1. Why was there no perimeter berm?
  2. Why could the fire not be put out quickly and easily? What all was lost? What did this site look like in the beginning?
  3. Why was there so much equipment onsite? Is this typical? What is it all called and how is it used?

1. Lack of Berm

The first and somewhat unanswered question concerns the absence of a simple containment berm around the completed well pad. Statoil must not have thought one would be very helpful, and/or the State of Ohio must not require them.

However, I had raised concern over this very topic more than a year ago from WV. In response, I received a letter in September 2013 from Statoil North America to the WVDEP. It provides some insight into Statoil thinking. Based on my interpretation of that letter, the official position of Statoil last year was that berms around the well pad do not help and are not needed. Given the recent fire, perhaps that position has changed. All we know for sure now is that at least their Eisenbarth well pad now does have a complete perimeter berm. We now have empirical proof, if any was ever needed, that in the presence of spills the absence of berms makes for greater and more expensive downstream problems.

2. An Obstinate Fire

Setting aside the berm problem, I will attempt to address the next set of questions: Why could the fire not be put out quickly and easily? What all was lost ? What did this site look like in the beginning?

The simplest way to start on such questions is to look at other hydraulic fracturing sites to identify what is there and why, and then to compare those with the charred remains on the Statoil Eisenbarth well pad in Monroe County.  Since Statoil’s contractor was Halliburton, it would help to look at their equipment when in process elsewhere.  In Figure 9 below is a clean, bright red and grey Halliburton fracking fleet.

Statoil 9

Figure 9. Example of Halliburton fracking fleet

It needs to be stated up front that I consider Halliburton to be among one of the more reputable, experienced, and dependable fracturing companies. We have seen way worse here in Wetzel County over the past seven years. Halliburton has good equipment and well-trained, safety-conscious employees. It seems to be a well-run operation. If so, then how did this massive fire happen? It simply seems that it is the nature of the beast; there are many inherent dangers to such operations. Plus there is an enormous amount of equipment on site, close coupled and stuffed into a small amount of real estate. Not to mention, the whole setup is temporary – with a lot of fuel and ignition sources. Therefore, many of the available engineered-in safeguards that would normally be installed in an industrial, fixed, permanent location, just cannot be incorporated on my neighbor’s hay field, creek bottom, or farmland.

The whole process has many risks, and many of them cannot be eliminated, just minimized. I do not think that anyone could have predicted a weak hydraulic hose. Some accidents are just that — unpreventable accidents. This is why we need to be very careful with how close we allow these sites in residential areas.

3. Serious Equipment

In Figure 10 below is a wide-angle composite photo of a Halliburton fracturing project in process. Given the shallow angle viewpoint, not all equipment is visible or numbered. The photo is still very representative of frac sites in general and equivalent to what can be seen in the scorched remains on the Statoil Eisenbarth site. The major qualification on the fracturing pumps above and the ones below, is that they are a newer generation of Halliburton dual fuel pumps. They can run on natural gas.

Statoil 10

Figure 10. Halliburton fracturing project in process

Just about everything seen in the above bright red and grey hardware can be seen in Figure 11’s charred leftovers on the Statoil site from July 5, 2014 below (six days after the fire). It is also all Halliburton equipment. The quantities and arrangement are different, but the equipment and process are the same. The numbers on the provided legend or chart should help identify the specific pieces of equipment. The newly constructed containment berm is also clearly visible here.

Statoil 11

Figure 11. Statoil site post-fire equipment identification

The above or a similar photo has been seen by many neighbors both in OH and WV. Hardly anyone can recognize what they are looking at. Even those people who are somewhat familiar with general hydraulic fracturing operations are puzzled. Nothing is obvious when viewing charred remains of burned iron, steel, and melted aluminum. All tires (over 400 of them) have been burned off the rims. Every bit of rubber, foam, composites, plastics and fiberglass truck cabs has been consumed – which is what made the black plume of smoke potentially so dangerous.

Statoil 12

Fig. 12. 16 fracturing pumps

Statoil 13

Fig. 13. 18-wheeler

What might not be so obvious is why the fire could not be extinguished.

If we look at a close-up of a small section of the well pad (Fig. 12) it is easy to see how crowded the well pad is during fracturing. The 16 fracturing pumps are all the size of a full-length 18-wheel tractor trailer (Fig. 13). Note the three fuel tanks.

The fire began between the blender-mixer trucks and the 16 hydraulic fracturing pumps. The blenders were between the fracturing pumps and the sand kings. Halliburton always keeps fire extinguishers available at every truck. They are put on the ground in front of every pump truck. Everyone knows where to find them. However, on any fracking project that location is also the most congested area. The fracturing pumps are usually parked no more than two feet apart. It is just enough room for an operator or maintenance fellow to get between them. With high pressure fluid spraying and the fire already started and now spreading, there is precious little room to maneuver or to work. It is a plumbing nightmare with the dozens of high pressure pipes connecting all the pumps together and then to a manifold. In those conditions, in the face of multiple fuel sources, then the many small explosions, prudence and self-preservation dictates a swift retreat.

To their credit, Halliburton employees knew when to retreat. No one was injured. We just burned up some trucks (and killed some fish). All the employees and all the first responders were able to go home safely, uninjured, to their families and friends. They survived a very dangerous situation to come back again in the service of their employer or their community. We wish them well.

Some Observations and Conclusions

  1. The hydraulic fracturing process is dangerous, even when done properly.
  2. Environmental and employee safeguards must be in place because “accidents will happen.”
  3. Setbacks from personal farm and residential buildings must be great enough to protect all.
  4. Setbacks from streams and creeks and rivers must be taken very seriously, especially when private or municipal water supply systems are downstream.
  5. Our communities must know what all chemicals are being used so that correct lab protocols are established ahead of time to test for contamination.

This now ends this first article addressing the Statoil Fire, its burned fracturing equipment, and the resulting water contamination. Later, I will show many examples of the quantity of equipment used on fracturing sites and why it is there. You patient readers thought this would never end. You now know more about Statoil, well pad fires, and fracturing hardware than you ever wanted to know. We will soon address the more generic questions of fracturing equipment.

Statoil Eisenbarth Well Pad Fire – An Introduction

By Bill Hughes, Community Liaison, FracTracker Alliance

Monroe County on the eastern border of the State of Ohio and Wetzel County in West Virginia are very much neighbors. They literally share a very deep connection, at least geologically and physically, as they are separated by a very long, deep, 1000-foot wide valley, filled by the Ohio River. A bridge connects the surface land and its residents.

But if you literally dig a little deeper, actually a lot deeper (as in 7,000 feet down), we are seamlessly joined by the Marcellus shale layer. Below this layer, we are joined by other black shale formations where the natural gas and some of its unwelcome neighbors live.

I live in Wetzel County. From where I am sitting I am surrounded by multiple shale gas operations – and have been for over seven years. I have Chesapeake to the north; EQT to the southeast; Stone Energy to the west; Statoil to the east; and HG Energy to the south. They all are primarily extracting gas from the Marcellus formation, but just a few miles to the north of here is a Utica formation well pad (situated below the Marcellus Shale layer). It is being fracked as I write this article.

Externalizing Business Costs

Setting aside the different political and regulatory differences that might exist when comparing WV & OH, the terrain, topography, and cultural history are very similar. The impact of shale gas extraction in a rural community seems to be the same everywhere it is happening, as well. We have all had traffic congestion, road accidents, problems with air and water quality, and waste disposal challenges. All of the drilling companies use fresh water from the Ohio River or its tributaries. WV gas producers take much of their brine and flowback fluids to injections wells in OH for disposal. The grateful OH drillers truck their waste products to our landfills here in Wetzel County and the operators seem pleased with the arrangement. Externalizing costs to our communities seems to be an accepted and tolerated business model.

About Statoil

Statoil is a large natural gas producer from Norway. They have wells both here in Wetzel, WV and in Monroe County, OH. On June 28 and 29 of 2014, a massive fire burned out of control on a Statoil well pad called Eisenbarth in Monroe County (map below), during a routine hydraulic fracturing operation. The size, impact, and cause of the Statoil Eisenbarth fire deserve a lot of attention. Since I have Statoil well pads near me, I am somewhat concerned. Therefore, I will be writing about this specific fire and some of the implications for all of us.

A Series of Incident Articles

This photo essay will be presented in two sections. The first will describe the fire along with some of the details and published reports. The second part will use the photos and information to help us all better understand what is meant when we simply make comments on “fracking.” Additionally, I will show which components are commonly present during the hydraulic fracturing process. Explore the in-depth look at this incident.

Location of the Eisenbarth Pad where the June 2014 Statoil Fire occurred

Location of the Statoil Eisenbarth fire that occurred in June 2014. Click to explore our Ohio Shale Viewer.

Fracking vs. Ohio’s Renewable Energy Portfolio – A False Distinction

Changes to OH Wind Power

Part I of a Multi-part Series – By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Governor Kasich recently signed SB 310 “Ohio’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard” and HB 483.1 This action by all accounts will freeze energy efficiency efforts (such as obtaining 25% of the state’s power from renewables by 20252) and impose a tremendous degree of uncertainty on $2.5 billion worth of wind farm proposals in Ohio.

Active & Proposed Wind Projects in the U.S.


The above map describes active and proposed renewable energy projects, as well as energy related political funders and think tanks. We will be relying heavily on this map throughout our Ohio renewable energy series. Click the arrows in the upper right hand corner of the map to view the legend, metadata, and more.

Opposing Views

Sides of the SB 310 and HB 483 Debate

Opposition to SB 310 and HB 483 is coming from the business community3 and activists, while powerful political forces provide support for the bill (see figure right). Opponents feel that renewables and a more diversified energy portfolio are the true “bridge fuel,” and unlike hydrocarbons, renewables provide a less volatile or globally priced source of energy.

HB 483 will change new commercial wind farms setbacks to 1,300 ft. from the base of the turbine to the closest property line – rather than the closest structure. The bill will also change the setback for permitted and existing wind projects to 550 feet from a property line in the name of noise reduction, potential snow damage (Kowalski, 2014; Pelzer, 2014). This imposed distance is curious given that setbacks for Utica oil and gas wells are only 100-200 feet.

OH’s turbine setback requirements instantly went from “middle of the pack” to the strictest in the nation. OH is now in the dubious position of being the first of 29 states with Renewable Energy Standards (RESs) to freeze renewable energy before it even got off the ground. Is the road being intentionally cleared for an even greater reliance on shale gas production and waste disposal in OH?

An Environment of Concerns

As Mary Kuhlman at the Public News Service pointed out, the concern with both bills from the renewable energy industry – including wind giant, Iberdrola – is that the bills will “create a start-stop effect that will confuse the marketplace, disrupt investment, and reduce energy savings for customers.” These last minute efforts to roll back the state’s renewable energy path were apparently inserted with no public testimony; the OH Senate spent no more than 10 minutes on them, and there was overwhelming support in both the House and the Senate.

Ohioans, unlike their elected officials, support the renewable energy standards according to a recent poll (Gearino, 2014). Voters are in favor of such measures to the tune of 72-86%, with the concern being the potential for organic job growth4, reduced pollution, and R&D innovation in OH rather than marginal cost increases.

The elephant in the room is that fossil fuel extraction may not improve residents’ quality of life. Many of the most impoverished counties in this country are the same ones that relied on coal mining in the past and hydrocarbon production presently. The best examples of this “resource curse” are the six Appalachian Mountain and Texas Eagle Ford Shale counties chronicled by The New York Times (Fernandez and Krauss, 2014; Flippen, 2014; Lowrey, 2014).

Ohio Wind Potential

Ohio Wind Speed, Utica Shale Play, and Permitted Utica Wells

Figure 1. OH Wind Speed, Utica Shale Play, & Permitted Utica Wells. Click to enlarge.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), OH currently has 425-500 megawatts (MW) worth of operating wind power, which ranks it ahead of only Kentucky in the Appalachian shale gas corridor and #26 nationally.6 Using factors provided by Kleinhenz & Associates, a 428 MW capacity equates to 856-1,284 jobs, $628 million in wages (i.e., $49-73K average), $1.85 billion in sales, and $48.9 million in public revenues.

Seventy-one percent of OH’s capacity is accounted for by the $600 million Iberdrola owned and operated Blue Creek Wind Farm in northwestern OH. The terrestrial wind speeds are highest there – in the range of 14.3-16.8 mph as compared to the slow winds of the OH Utica Shale basin (Figure 1).6 It is worth noting that the recent OH renewable energy legislation would have diminished the Blue Creek project by 279 MW if built under new standards, given that only 12 of the turbines would fall within the new setback criteria.

Ohio Wind Capacity (MW) Added Between 2011 and 2014

Figure 2. OH Wind Capacity (MW) Added Between 2011 and 2014. Click to enlarge.

If OH were to pursue the additional 900 MW public-private partnership wind proposals currently under review by the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), an additional 900,000-1.2 million jobs, $1.3 billion in wages, $3.9 billion in sales, and $102.9 million in revenue would result. These figures are conservative estimates for wind power but would result in markedly more jobs for Ohioans with the component manufacturing and installation capacity already in OH (Figure 2). The shale gas industry, in comparison, relies overwhelmingly on the import of goods, services, capital, and labor for their operations. Additionally, lease agreements with firms like Iberdrola compare favorably with the current going rate for Utica leases in OH; landowners with turbines on their properties receive $8K. Nearby neighbors receive somewhat smaller amounts depending on distance from turbines, noise, and visibility.

OH’s current inventory of wind projects alleviate the equivalent of 45 Utica wells worth of water consumption.7 Considering current wind energy capacity and the proposed 900 MWs, OH will have only tapped into 2.4% of the potential onshore capacity in the Buckeye State. If the state were to exploit 10% more of the remaining wind capacity, the numbers would skyrocket into an additional 5.5-7.1 million jobs, $8.1 million in wages, $23.8 billion in sales, and $627.9 million in public revenues.

Taking the Wind out of the Sails

However, SB 310 and HB 483 took the wind out of Iberdrola and the rest of the AWEA’s membership’s proverbial sails. Their spokesperson noted that “The people (who will be hurt) most are the ones who have spent a couple of million dollars to go through the OPSB process expecting those (renewable-energy) standards to be there.” OH’s increased capacity historically has accounted for approximately 2.3% of increases nationwide.

Equally, hydrocarbon production dependent states like Texas have found time, resources, and regulatory room for wind even as they continue to explore shale gas development. Texas alone – home to 26% of the nation’s active oil and gas wells according to work by our Matt Kelso – accounted for 14% of wind-power installation capacity coming online (Gearino, 2013). This figure stands in contrast to the claims of those that supported SB 310 and HB 483 that increase in renewable energy equate to declines in jobs, tax revenue, and countless other metrics of success. The politics of Texas and the state’s higher reliance on hydrocarbon generation should demonstrate that support for renewables is not a zero-sum game for traditional energy sources.

The average US wind farm has a potential of 300 MWs, with approximately 88 turbines or 3.4 MW per turbine spread across an average footprint of 7,338 acres. The actual footprint of these turbines, however, is in the range of 147-367 acres. Tower and turbine heights are generally 366 and 241 feet, respectively. These projects generate 0.89 jobs per MW and nearly 175,000 labor hours.

Thus, the potential of wind power from a tax revenue, employment, and energy independence standpoint is substantial but will only be realized if OH strengthens and diversifies renewable energy standards in Columbus.

Next in the Series

In the next part of this series we will look at the potential of woody biomass as an energy feedstock in OH.


References

Footnotes

  1. Most of HB 483 focuses on taxation and social programs with the one hydrocarbon provision doubling maximum penalties for gas pipeline violations removed by the Ohio House Finance Committee.
  2. According to Ohio’s Public Utilities Commission “At least 12.5 percent must be generated from renewable energy resources, including wind, hydro, biomass and at least 0.5 percent solar. The remainder can be generated from advanced energy resources, including nuclear, clean coal and certain types of fuel cells…at least one half of the renewable energy used must be generated…in Ohio.”
  3. Supporters include Honda, Whirlpool, Owens-Corning, Campbell Soup Co., and most of the big players in the alternative-energy sector.
  4. Ohio is at the vanguard of wind turbine component manufacturing with its thriving steel industry and more than 60 supply chain companies that would assuredly mushroom with a more robust RES. Ohio is home to 11% of the nations’ wind-related manufacturing facilities making it #1 in the nation.
  5. This is equivalent to 305,278 Ohioans, 18.07 million tons of CO2 or 950,012 Ohioans annual emissions.
  6. Note that the wind speed map includes measurements made at 50 meters in height, while OH turbines are typically installed at 80-100 m hub height, which “is the distance from the turbine platform to the rotor of an installed wind turbine and indicates how high your turbine stands above the ground, not including the length of the turbine blades. Commercial scale turbines (greater than 1MW) are typically installed at 80 m (262 ft.) or higher, while small-scale wind turbines (approximately 10kW) are installed on shorter towers.”
  7. Assuming the following claim from the American Wind Energy Association is true: “The water consumption savings from wind projects in Ohio total more than 248,000,000 gallons of water a year.”

OH and WV Shale Gas Water Usage and Waste Injection

By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

Both Ohio and West Virginia citizens are concerned about the increasing shale exploration in their area and how it affects water quality. Those concerned about the drilling tend to focus on the large quantities of water required to hydraulically fracture – or “frack” – Utica and Marcellus wells. Meanwhile those concerned with water quality cite increases in truck traffic and related spills. Concerns also exist regarding the large volumes of fracking waste injected into Class II Salt Water Disposal (SWD) wells primarily located in/adjacent to Ohio’s Muskingum River Watershed.

Injection Wells & Water Usage

While Pennsylvania and WV have drilled heavily into their various shale plays, OH has seen a dramatic increase in Class II Injection wells. In 2010 OH hosted 151 injection wells, which received 50.1 Million Gallons (MGs) per quarter in total – or 331,982 gallons per well. Now, this area has 1941 injection wells accepting 937.5 MGs in total and an average of 4.3 MGs per well.

In the second quarter of 2010 the Top 10 Class II wells by volume accounted for 45.87% of total fracking waste injected in the state. Fast forward to today, the Top 10 wells account for 38.87% of the waste injected. This means that the industry and OH Department of Natural Resources Underground Injection Control (ODNR UIC) are relying on 128% more wells to handle the 1,671% increase in the fracking waste stream coming from inside OH, WV, and PA. During the same time period, freshwater usage by the directional drilling industry has increased by 261% in WV and 162% in OH.

Quantity of Disposed Waste

With respect to OH’s injection waste story there appear to be a couple of distinct trends with the following injection wells:

— Long Run Disposal #8 in Washington and Myers in Portage counties. The changes reflect a nearly exponential increase in the amount of oil and gas waste being injected, with projected quarterly increases of 6.78 and 5.64 MGs. This trend is followed by slightly less dramatic increases at several other sites: the Devco Unit #11 is up 4.81 MGs per quarter (MGPQ).

— Groselle #2 is increasing at 4.21 MGPQ, and Ohio Oil Gathering Corp II #6 is the same with an increase of 4.03 MGPQ.

— Another group of wells with similar waste statistics is the trio of the Newell Run Disposal #10 (↑2.81 MGPQ), Pander R & P #15 (↑3.23 MGPQ), and Dietrich PH (↑2.53 MGPQ).

— The final grouping are of wells that came online between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013 and have rapidly begun to constitute a sizeable share of the fracking waste stream. The two wells that fall within this category and rank in the Top 10 are the Adams #10 and Warren Drilling Co. #6 wells, which are experiencing quarterly increases of 3.49 and 2.41 MGs (Figure 2).

Disposal of Out-of-State Waste

These Top 10 wells also break down into groups based on the degree to which they have, are, and plan to rely on out-of-state fracking waste (Figure 3). Five wells that have continuously received more than 70% of their wastestream from out-of-state are the Newell Run Disposal (94.4), Long Run Disposal (94.7%), Ohio Oil Gathering Corp (94.2%), Groselle (94.3%), and Myers (77.2%). This group is followed by a set of three wells that reflect those that relied on out-of-state waste for 17-30% of their inputs during the early stages of Utica Shale development in OH but shifted significantly to out-of-state shale waste for ≥40% of their inputs. (More than 80% of Pander R & P’s waste stream was from out-of-state waste streams, up from ≈20% during the Fall/Winter of 2010-11). Finally, there are the Adams and Warren Drilling Co. wells, which – in addition to coming online only recently – initially heavily received out-of-state fracking waste to the tune of ≥75% but this reliance declined significantly by 51% and 26% in the case of the Adams and Warren Drilling Co. wells, respectively. This indicates that demand-side pressures are growing in Ohio and for individual Class II owners – or – the expanding Stallion Oilfield Services (which is rapidly buying up Class II wells) is responding to an exponential increase in fracking brine waste internally.

Waste Sources

We know anecdotally that much of the waste coming into OH is coming from neighboring WV and PA, which is why we are now looking into directional well water usage in these two states. WV and PA have far fewer Class II wells relative to OH and well permitting has not increased significantly there. Here in Ohio we are experiencing not just an increase in injection waste volumes but also a steady increase in water usage.  The average Utica well currently utilizes 6.5-8.1 million gallons of fresh water, up from 4.6-5.3 MGs during the Fall/Winter of 2010-11 (Figure 4). Put another way, water usage is increasing on a quarterly basis by 221-333K gallons per well2. Unfortunately, this increase coincides with an increase in the reliance on freshwater (+00.42% PQ) and parallel decline in recycled water (-00.54% PQ). In addition to declining in nominal terms, recycling rates are also declining in real terms given that the rate is a percentage of an ever-increasing volume. Currently the use of freshwater and recycled water account for 6.1 MGs and 0.33 MGs per well, respectively. Given the difference in freshwater and recycled water it appears there is an average 8,319 gallon unknown fluid void per well. The quality of the water used to fill the void is important from a watershed (or drinking water) perspective.  The chemicals used in the process tend to be resistant to bio-degradation and can negatively influence the chemistry of freshwater.

WV Data

WV is experiencing similar increases in water usage for their directionally drilled wells; the average well currently utilizes 7.0-9.6 MGs of fresh water – up from 2.9-5.0 MGs during the Fall/Winter of 2010-11 (↑208%). This change translates into a quarterly increase in the range of 189-353K gallons per well3. The increase coincides with an increase in the reliance on freshwater (+00.34% PQ) and related decline in recycled water (-00.67% PQ). Currently, freshwater and recycled water account for 7.7 MGs and 0.61 MGs per well, respectively. Given the difference in freshwater and recycled water, there is an average of 22,750 gallons of unaccounted for fluids being filled by unknown or proprietary fluids (Figure 5).

The Bigger Picture

This analysis coincides with our ongoing Muskingum River Watershed resilience analysis on behalf of Freshwater Accountability Project’s Leatra Harper and Terry Lodge. Their group represents a set of concerned citizens disputing the “short-term water sale” of freshwater by the increasingly abstruse and proprietary Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) to industry players such as Antero, Gulfport, and American Energy Utica. Pending or approved sales total 120 MGs averaging 1.8 MGs per day at around $4.25 per thousand gallons4. The proximity of this watershed – and location of many Utica wells within its boundaries – to most of the current and proposed WV and OH wells makes it susceptible to excess, irresponsible, or dangerous water withdrawals and waste transport (Figure 6). We will continue to update this analysis in an effort to infuse the MWCD conversation about industry water sales with more holistic watershed resilience and susceptibility mapping with an eye toward getting the state of OH to address issues associated with freshwater valuation which is lacking at the present time.

Figures

Ohio Class II Number and Volumes in 2010 and 2014

Figure 1. Ohio Class II Number and Volumes in 2010 and 2014

Ohio's Top 10 Fracking Waste Class II Injection Wells by Volume

Figure 2. Quarterly volumes accepted by Ohio’s Top Ten Class II Injection Wells with respect to hydraulic fracturing brine waste.

Ohio's Top 10 Fracking Waste Class II Injection Wells by % Out-Of-State

Figure 3. Ohio’s Top Ten Class II Injection Wells w/respect to hydraulic fracturing brine waste.

Average Water Usage by Ohio's Utica Wells By Quarter (Fall 2010 to Spring 2014)

Figure 4. Total water usage per Utica well and recycled Vs freshwater percentage change across Ohio’s Utica Shale wells on a quarterly basis. Data are presented quarterly (Ave. Q3-2010 to Q2-2014)

Average Water Usage by West Virginia's Directional Drilling Wells By Quarter (Summer 2010 to Winter 2014)

Figure 5. Changes in WV water usage for horizontally/hydraulically fractured wells w/respect to recycled water (volume & percentages) & freshwater. Data are presented quarterly (Ave. Q3-2010 to Q2-2014)

OH_WV_Water

Figure 6. Unconventional drilling well water usage in OH (n = 516) and WV (n = 581) (Note: blue borders describe primary Hydrological Units w/the green outline depicting the Muskingum River watershed in OH).


References & Resources

  1. Of a possible 239 Class II Salt Water Disposal (SWD) wells.
  2. The large range depends on whether you start your analysis at Q3-2010 or the aforementioned statistically robust Q3-2011.
  3. The large range depends on whether you start your analysis at Q3-2010 or the more statistically robust Q3-2011.
  4. MWCD water sales approved to date: 1) Seneca Lake for Antero: 15 million gallons at 1.5mm per day, 2) Piedmont Lake for Gulfport: 45 million gallons at 2 million per day, 3) Clendening for American Energy Utica: 60 million gallons at 2 million per day.
Photo by Evan Collins and Rachel Wadell

These Fish Weren’t Playing Opossum (Creek)

A First-hand Look at the Recent Statoil Well Pad Fire

By Evan Collins and Rachel Wadell, Summer Research Interns, Wheeling Jesuit University

Statoil well pad fire 2205-crop

Monroe Co. Ohio – Site of June 2014 Statoil well pad fire

After sitting in the non-air-conditioned lab on a muggy Monday afternoon (June 30, 2014), we were more than ready to go for a ride to Opossum Creek after our professor at Wheeling Jesuit University mentioned a field work opportunity. As a researcher concerned about drilling’s impacts, our professor has given many talks on the damaging effects that unconventional drilling can have on the local ecosystem. During the trip down route 7, he explained that there had been a serious incident on a well pad in Monroe County, Ohio (along the OH-WV border) on Saturday morning.

About the Incident

Hydraulic tubing had caught fire at Statoil’s Eisenbarth well pad, resulting in the evacuation of 20-25 nearby residents.1 Statoil North America is a relatively large Norwegian-based company, employing roughly 23,000 workers, that operates all of its OH shale wells in Monroe County.2 The Eisenbarth pad has 8 wells, 2 of which are active.1 However, the fire did not result from operations underground. All burning occurred at the surface from faulty hydraulic lines.

Resulting Fish Kill?

Photo by Evan Collins and Rachel Wadell

Several fish from the reported fish kill of Opossum Creek in the wake of the recent well pad fire in Monroe County, OH.

When we arrived at Opossum Creek, which flows into the Ohio River north of New Martinsville, WV, it smelled like the fresh scent of lemon pine-sol. A quick look revealed that there was definitely something wrong with the water. The water had an orange tint, aquatic plants were wilting, and dozens of fish were belly-up. In several shallow pools along the creek, a few small mouth bass were still alive, but they appeared to be disoriented.  As we drove down the rocky path towards the upstream contamination site, we passed other water samplers. One group was from the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH). The consulting firm was sampling for volatile organic compounds, while we were looking for the presence of halogens such as Bromide and Chloride. These are the precursors to trihalomethanes, a known environmental toxicant.

Visiting the Site

After collecting water samples, we decided to visit the site of the fire. As we drove up the ridge, we passed another active well site. Pausing for a break and a peek at the well, we gazed upon the scenic Appalachian hillsides and enjoyed the peaceful drone of the well site. Further up the road, we came to the skeletal frame of the previous Statoil site. Workers and members of consulting agencies, such as CTEH, surrounded the still smoking debris. After taking a few pictures, we ran into a woman who lived just a half-mile from the well site.  We asked her about the fire and she stated that she did not appreciate having to evacuate her home. Surrounding plants and animals were not able to be evacuated, however.

Somehow the fish living in Opossum Creek, just downhill from the well, ended up dead after the fire. The topography of the area suggests that runoff from the well would likely flow in a different direction, so the direct cause of the fish kill is still obscure. While it is possible that chemicals used on the well pad ran into the creek while the fire was being extinguished, the OH Department of Natural Resources “can’t confirm if it (the fish kill) is related to the gas-well fire.”3  In reference to the fire, a local resident said “It’s one of those things that happens. My God, they’re 20,000 feet down in the ground. Fracking isn’t going to hurt anything around here. The real danger is this kind of thing — fire or accidents like that.”4

Lacking Transparency

WV 2014 Photo by Evan Collins and Rachel Wadell

Run by Statoil North America, Eisenbarth well pad in Monroe County, Ohio is still smoking after the fire.

Unfortunately, this sentiment is just another example of the general public being ill-informed about all of the aspects involved in unconventional drilling. This knowledge gap is largely due to the fact that oil and gas extraction companies are not always transparent about their operations or the risks of drilling. In addition to the potential for water pollution, earthquakes, and illness due to chemicals, air pollution from active unconventional well sites is increasing annually.

CO2 Emissions

Using prior years’ data, from 2010 to 2013, we determined that the average CO2 output from unconventional gas wells in 2013 was equal to that of an average coal-fired plant. If growth continued at this rate, the total emissions of all unconventional wells in West Virginia will approximate 10 coal-fired power plants in the year 2030. Coincidentally, this is the same year which the EPA has mandated a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by all current forms of energy production. However, recent reports suggest that the amount of exported gas will quadruple by 2030, meaning that the growth will actually be larger than originally predicted.5 Yet, this number only includes the CO2 produced during extraction. It does not include the CO2 released when the natural gas is burned, or the gas that escapes from leaks in the wells.

Long-Term Impacts

Fires and explosions are just some of the dangers involved in unconventional drilling. While they can be immediately damaging, it is important to look at the long-term impacts that this industry has on the environment. Over time, seepage into drinking water wells and aquifers from underground injection sites will contaminate these potable sources of water. Constant drilling has also led to the occurrence of unnatural earthquakes. CO2 emissions, if left unchecked, could easily eclipse the output from coal-fired power plants – meaning that modern natural gas drilling isn’t necessarily the “clean alternative” as it has been advertised.

References

  1. Willis, Jim ed. (2014). Statoil Frack Trucks Catch Fire in Monroe County, OH. Marcellus Drilling News.
  2. Forbes. (2014). Statoil.
  3. Woods, Jim. (2014). Fish Kill in Eastern Ohio Might be Linked to Fire at Fracking Well. The Columbus Dispatch.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Cushman, John H., Jr. (2014). US Natural Gas Exports No Better for Climate than China’s Coal, Experts Say.

Putting the “Fun” in Fundraisers

By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

Great turnout and whiskey

Enjoying some whiskey in Pittsburgh

It’s almost July, but just a few weeks ago, FracTracker wrapped up the last of three fundraising events. From a site in San Francisco overlooking the Pacific to a budding distillery in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, friends and colleagues came together to show their support for our work and their concern about the effects of unconventional drilling. If you were able to join us for these events – whatever the motivation, we appreciated your collective, deliberate act of kindness. Thank you!

The gatherings were generally small but lots of fun – full of conversation, positive energy, and, yes, good spirits. At the Cleveland Heights event, we even had live music thanks to the jazzy guitar of Alan Brooks and at all three venues a colorful exhibit of thought-provoking, conversation-stoking maps entitled “Cartography on Canvas.” These events were our first foray into fundraisers. From the experience they’ll be improved and made even more memorable, unique, extraordinary. That’s our goal.

We aim to entice more attendees, enhance our revenue, and, most importantly, grow the network of the informed – not just informed about the activities of FracTracker but of all the groups, efforts, and learnings related to the impacts of extreme hydrocarbon extraction. Soon, another round of events – guaranteed to be mood improving, mind expanding affairs – will be rolled out. Prepare to mark your calendars, join the fun, and make your own social statement!

A special thank you goes out to FracTracker staff, interns, and board members who put in extra time and effort to help ensure the success of these initial fundraisers. Thank you, too, to our incredible door prize and auction item contributors:

Ohio Hydrocarbon Production Well Inspections and Violations

Inspections and Violations in Ohio

Only a few states in the U.S. currently release free violations data related to unconventional oil and gas drilling. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) maintains an inventory of well inspections and violations within its RBDMS database. We examined and mapped their data with a focus on hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas) production wells and relevant Class II Injection1 wells – where the high volumes of liquid wastes produced during hydrocarbon extraction are often disposed of, deep within the earth.

By the Numbers

As of January 2013 there were a total of 5,954 hydrocarbon well inspections and 956 “True” violations. “True” violations refer to those inspections that were deemed to be in violation of the Ohio Revised Code (OAC) Chapter 1501:9-3 Saltwater Operation or Chapter 1501:9-1 Oil Well Drilling.  Violations and/or inspections tend to fall under a couple of categories including compliance notices, neighbor phone call, or routine field visits or inspections. There have been 470 and 430 “Complaint” and “Request” based inspections to date, respectively (Table 1).

This graph depicts monthly and cumulative Ohio hydrocarbon production well inspections and ODNR deemed "True" violations between September 2010 and January 2013.

Figure 1. Cumulative OH hydrocarbon production well inspections & ODNR determined true violations (Sept 2010 – Jan 2013)

The ratio of inspections to violations issued over time in Ohio has been somewhat variable, but a trend does seem to be slowly emerging. At the present time average hydrocarbon well inspections are increasing by 7 per month, while true violations are only increasing by 0.5 per month (Figure 1)2. Thus, the ratio of inspections-to-violations declined from its September 2010 high of 13.2 to 3.1 in February 2011. This ratio, however, began to rise shortly thereafter.

Assuming the current trajectory holds, the next ODNR RBDMS update should report approximately 11,696 inspections as of the end of January 2014 and more than 48,000 total inspections by January 2018. This trajectory dictates that we will see roughly 1,500-1,600 true violations by January 2014 and approximately 4,500 by January 2018.

Map Description

The map below displays a monthly updated inventory of Ohio’s hydrocarbon and relevant injection well-related violations. This map will be updated monthly around the 25th of each month. We have established fixed search criteria for the RBDMS Microsoft Access database, which is updated weekly. Inspection purposes include general complaints, civil action, compliance agreement, and criminal actions, while there are myriad inspection descriptions (Table 2).

To view the legend, metadata, and map fullscreen click on the arrows in the top right hand corner of the map.

Inspection Data Availability and Analysis

Significant data gaps exist with respect to latitude-longitude across Ohio’s current inventory of Class II and hydrocarbon well inspections (Note: Data is only available up to February 2013). Below we have analyzed the current gap between “Total” inspections and those “w/Latitude-Longitude” data. We are currently working to close these gaps. The largest gap exists for the “Salt Water Injection Wells All Time” (i.e., Hydraulic Fracturing Waste Class II’s) data with only 3.5% of all inspections accompanied by latitude-longitude coordinates.

Production Wells

  • Pre 9/1/2010 (i.e., First Ohio Utica Permits)
    • Total: 63,707
    • w/Latitude-Longitude: 24,912
    • 39% coverage
  • Post 9/1/2010 (i.e., First Ohio Utica Permits)
    • Total:  13,735
    • w/Latitude-Longitude: 5,917
    • 43% coverage

Salt Water Injection Wells All Time

  • Total: 11,939
  • w/Latitude-Longitude: 413
  • 3.5% coverage

Annular Disposal + Enhanced Oil Recovery + Orphan + Solution Mining Project + Storage Well

  • Total: 15,694
  • w/Latitude-Longitude: 5,300
  • 33.8% coverage 

Tables

The primary columns of importance to the public in the tables below are “Inspection Purpose”, “Inspection Description”, and “Notification Type.” Eighty-three percent (83%) of the state’s production well inspections were for what seem to be routine “Status Checks.” With respect to notification type, most were categorized as “Unknown” (Tables 1 and 3).
Table 1. Ohio production and Class II injection well Inspection Purposes

Code

Definition

Number of Inspections

C

Complaint

470

CAF

Civil Action Follow-up

4

CMF

Compliance Agreement Follow-up

4

NMF

Notice of Material or Substantial Follow-Up

2

NVF

Notice of Violation Follow-Up

99

OF

Order Follow-Up

4

R

Request

430

SC

Status Check

4,802

Unknown

3

Table 2. Ohio production and Class II injection well inspection descriptions

Description

Failure to maintain record of pipeline location

Inadequate pipeline strength

Failure to properly bury pipeline

Well operation causing pollution and contamination

General Safety

Well insufficiently equipped to prevent escape of oil and gas

Failure to legibly identify well

Violation of tank spacing requirements

Violation of tank fire heater spacing requirements

Unattended portable heater less than 50 feet from  tank

Violation of separator spacing requirements

Operating tank heater while oil is being produced

Improperly located oil tank

Equipment pressure rated below operating pressure

No SPCC dike/or failure to keep dike free of water or oil

Unlawful venting or flaring of gas

Failure to have required locks, bull plugs

Well incapable of production

Illegal/Unauthorized annular disposal of brine

Unlawful method of storage or disposal of brine

Dike or pit not able to prevent brine escape

Unlawful use of pit for temporary brine storage

Use of pit of dike for ultimate disposal of brine

Disposal of muds or cuttings in violation of a rule

Failure to keep dike or pit free of brine / other wastes

Illegal/Unauthorized annular disposal of brine

Non registered operator/ Bond/ Insurance

Table 3. Ohio production and Class II injection well notification types

Code

Definition

Number of Inspections

CN

Compliance Notice

470

FVI

Field Visit or Inspection

225

LET

Informal Letter

2

NOV

Notice of Violation

74

OTH

Other Notification

8

PHN

Phone Call

225

Unknown

4,810

 


Endnotes

1. Relevant Class II wells include Salt Water Injection, Annular Disposal, Enhanced Oil Recovery, Orphan, Solution Mining Projects, and Storage Wells

2. If we remove the first month of 2013, the former increases to 9 per month and the latter 0.8 per month.

Land-Use Change, the Utica Shale, and the Loss of Ecosystem Services

By Ted Auch, PhD – Ohio Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

In Ohio, Utica Well pads range in size from 5-15 acres. (Estimates for pipeline and retention ponds are unavailable.) That figure gives us the chance to estimate how hydraulic fracturing influenced changes to land-use, ecosystem services, plant productivity, and soil carbon loss.

Working with Caleb Gallemore and his Ohio State University GIS class, we created a data set that estimated the percent cover for each well pad prior to drilling using the USGS and Department of Interior’s 2006 National Land Cover Database (NLCD, 2006) [1].

Figure 1. Ohio’s original vegetation cover and Utica Well permits as of April 30th, 2013

Figure 1. Ohio’s original vegetation cover and Utica Well permits as of April 30, 2013

Accordingly, the state was and is dominated by:

  • mixed oak (from 12,038 mi2 pre-settlement to 7,911 mi2 today) to the east and
  • maple-beech-birch (from 13,917 mi2 pre-settlement to 2,521 mi2 today) to the west stretching into the southeast and northwest corner of Ohio.

During pre-settlement times additional dominant forest types included:

Since industrialization:

  • The faster growing elm-ash-cottonwood has arisen as a sub-dominant forest type currently comprising 1,237 mi2.
  • Additional sub-dominant forest types comprising 100-140 mi2 of Ohio’s land area include aspen-birch (134 mi2), white-red-jack pine (124 mi2), and loblolly-shortleaf pine (108 mi2).

Our results suggest the average amount of deciduous forest [2] disturbed – as a percent of total well pad area – by well pad establishment is 9.8 ± 5.5% per well pad with a range of 4.7% in Stark and Holmes Counties and a high of 24% in Monroe County (Figure 2). With respect to pasture and crop displacement the average is 11.7 and 10.7% per well pad, respectively, with significantly higher between-county variability for crop cover (±5.5% Vs ±3.6%).

Figure 2. Percent Cover across Ohio’s 269 Utica Well Pads assuming an average area of 7.75 acres and the National Land Cover Database 2006 (NLCD 2006) as a proxy for previous land-use.

Figure 2. Percent Cover across Ohio’s 269 Utica Well Pads assuming an average area of 7.75 acres and the National Land Cover Database 2006 (NLCD 2006) as a proxy for previous land-use. – Click to enlarge

Converting this data into ecosystem services requires certain assumptions about plant growth, soil organic matter content, and soil compaction utilizing Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) soil data to model the latter two and established peer-reviewed estimates for plant pattern and process (Follett, Kimble, & Lal, 2000; Lobell et al., 2002; Valentine et al., 2012). The basics of this analysis – assuming subsurface soils are 25% more compact and contain 45% less organic matter than the surface 12-13 inches (Needelman et al., 1999) – demonstrated that well pad establishment has displaced approximately 28,205 tons of surface and 78,348 tons of subsurface soil carbon [3] for a total of 106,554 tons of carbon equivalent to 389,986 tons of CO2.

Additionally, the displacement and/or removal of vegetation – assuming the average Ohio forest is 40-80 years old [4] – has resulted in the annual loss of 1,050, 6,516, and 9,461 tons of crop, pasture, and forest carbon production, respectively. This is equal to 17,027 tons of carbon or 62,319 tons of CO2, which when added to the aforementioned soil loss is equivalent to the CO2 footprint of 25,198 Ohioans [5].

Over the life of these three ecosystem types, well pad establishment displaces 1,021,619 tons of carbon. This equates to 3.74 million tons of CO2 or 230,034 Ohioans, which is roughly 9,000 less people than reside in Akron and Warren combined. Another way way to frame this figure is that it would be equivalent to the eightieth largest US city between Henderson, NV and Scottsdale, AZ.

At CO2’s current valuation this Ohio Utica well pad “carbon displacement” is roughly $18.71 million. However, if we assume this is at the lower end of reasonable CO2 estimates and that a range of $10-75 dollars is more indicative of carbon’s price, then we estimate the value of well pad displaced carbon is more like $41.29-309.68 million.

The true value of Utica well pad carbon displacement is somewhere in this range and entirely dependent on your belief in the feasibility of valuing CO2 emissions. However, these estimates do point to some of the externalities associated with Utica Shale development currently ignored by industry lobbyists and political advocates. There is far more work to be done as it relates to understanding well pads’ influence on ecosystem services, crop productivity, and local hydrology; this is simply an attempt to begin quantifying such effects.


References

Follett, R F, Kimble, J M, & Lal, R. (2000). The Potential of U.S. Grazing Lands to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press LLC.

Fry, J, Xian, G, Jin, S, Dewitz, J, Homer, C, Yang, L, . . . Wickham, J. (2011). Completion of the 2006 National Land Cover Database for the Conterminous United States. PE&RS, 77(9), 858-864.

Lobell, D B, Hicke, J A, Asner, G P, Field, C B, Tucker, C J, & Los, S O. (2002). Satellite estimates of productivity and light use efficiency in United States agriculture, 1982-98. Global Change Biology, 8(8), 722-735.

Needelman, B A, Wander, M M, Bollero, G A, Boast, C W, Sims, G K, & Bullock, D G. (1999). Interaction of Tillage and Soil Texture Biologically Active Soil Organic Matter in Illinois. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 63(5), 1326-1334.

Valentine, J, Clifton-Brown, J, Hastings, A, Robson, P, Allison, G, & Smith, P. (2012). Food vs. Fuel: The use of land for lignocellulosic next generation energy crops to minimize competition with primary food production. Global Change Biology Bioenergy, 4(1), 1-19.


Footnotes

[1] The NLCD estimates land cover using sixteen classes at a 98 foot spatial resolution applied to 2006 Landsat satellite data or 4-5 years prior to the first Ohio Utica permit in September, 2010 (Fry et al., 2011)

[2] Primary tree species include red and sugar maple, red and white oak, white ash, black cherry, American beech, hickory, and tulip poplar according to the most recent USFS Forest Inventory Analysis “Ohio Forests 2006”.

[3] Along with roughly 6,536 tons of soil nitrogen assuming an Ohio soil Carbon-To-Nitrogen ratio of 14.6.

[4] Utilizing the USFS’s Forest Inventory and Analysis EVALIDator Version 1.5.1.04 tool we determined that 62% of Ohio’s oak-hickory, maple-beech-birch, elm-ash-cottonwood, and oak-pine forest types, which account for 94% of the state’s forest area, are 40-80 years old.

[5] Assuming 17.3-18.6 tons of CO2 per capita based on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center as cited by the World Bank.