The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 4, 2014

Brine injection well sought for Conneaut

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — A Cortland company is seeking the state’s permission to create a brine water injection well in Conneaut, officials said.

American Energy Inc., has applied to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the necessary permits, according to Robert Barnett, American Energy president. Barring snags, the well could be operational sometime this year, Barnett said Friday.

The city of Conneaut, however, will send a letter stating its opposition to the proposal to Columbus, said City Manager Timothy Eggleston. Besides environmental concerns, the city is worried trucks laden with brine will take a toll on local roads.

A final decision, however, rests with the state, Eggleston said.

“It’s under the disposition of the (ODNR),” he said. “There’s nothing local we can do to regulate it.”

American Energy wants to place the well on property on the near east side of Route 7 between Underridge and South Ridge roads. The site, on an approximate line with the state highway outpost, was picked because of its proximity to Interstate 90 and the state line, Barnett said.

“It’s the first location coming in from Pennsylvania and New York,” he said.

The company proposes a well between 5,400 and 6,500 feet deep and capable of accepting 1,000 barrels of brine per day at an estimated pressure of 1245 psi, Barnett said. Those levels are at the extreme ends of the spectrum, he said.

“We won’t be anywhere near the stated pressure,” Barnett said.

Brine, a byproduct of gas and oil drilling, could come from out-of-state sources as well as local wells, Barnett said. American Energy operates 80 wells in northeast Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said. All brine would be filtered before it is injected into the well, Barnett said.

“Nothing more than brine will enter the well,” he said. “All the other junk will be filtered out. We would be putting brine back where it came from.”

Several injection wells can be found in Ashtabula County, but few would be as deep as the one proposed for Conneaut, Barnett said.

“It’s about the safest way of (dealing with brine),” he said. “Drilling a deep well is more advantageous and safer, because you’re deeper into the ground.”

Brine wells are controversial because of contamination concerns and the belief the pressure behind the process can trigger tremors. Barnett said the key to a trouble-free operation is responsible operation.

“It doesn’t cause a problem if you pay attention and don’t overpressure,” he said.

Hundreds of feet of the well shaft would be encased to protect nearby water sources, Barnett said. The well would operate during daytime, although trucks could run in the evening, he said.

Because of the concern, brine injection wells are carefully monitored by the state and must follow stringent rules and regulations set down by the state, Barnett said. Pressure and brine quantity would be set and gauged by ODNR, he said.

“They monitor us very, very carefully,” he said.

An ODNR spokesperson could not be reached Friday for comment on American Energy’s application or the state’s permitting process.

American Energy made first contact with ODNR in early December, according to documents. The city learned of the project in early December via a letter sent to Deanna Gates, planning/zoning manager. Neighbors said they were alerted by legal notices published this week. State Rep. John Patterson is sponsoring legislation that would enhance and improve the public notice process for such projects, Eggleston said.

Barnett said he plans to confer with city officials and neighbors soon on the proposed project.

American Energy received state permission to advertise its proposed brine well operation via the newspaper, but that’s no guarantee of final approval, Barnett said.

“Everything is so preliminary,” he said. “It’s possible we won’t be able to do this.”

Comments regarding American Energy’s brine injection well proposal must be delivered to the ODNR within 15 days of Jan. 5, the last day the legal notice will be published. The address is: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, 2045 Morse Road, Building F-2, Columbus, OH 43229-6693. The office’s phone number is 614-265-6922.