Research on a hydraulic fracturing disposal well in Ohio has revealed that there is a link between injection wells and seismic activity.
In Youngstown, Ohio, near the Northstar 1 Class II brine disposal well, 12 earthquakes have occurred that researchers were able to connect directly to the well.
The report, with studies done by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), stated that though it is fairly difficult to induce an earthquake, in this case it was done.
For an induced earthquake, there must already be a heavily stressed fault in the location that is close to failure, and the well must be very close to the fault.
In the case of Northstar 1, there was an unknown fault line very close by.
And as a result, the ODNR has put in place a new set of standards for brine disposal.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers Class II disposal wells the safest way to get rid of liquid wastes, but they must be regulated under the proper conditions.
The ODNR regulations include a number of things to be monitored as well as extra geological research before drilling.
Potential drillers must submit logs of geological factors in the area and a study of the surrounding faults. They will also be responsible for monitoring seismic activity in the area surrounding the well.
Until the regulations can be transcribed into law, they will appear as conditions when drillers apply for permits.
ODNR director James Zehringer believes the new regulations will return Ohio to its position as a national leader in safety:
“Ohioans demand smart environmental safeguards that protect our environment and promote public health. These new standards accomplish this goal.”
The Class II disposal wells are a step up from the surface pits that originally functioned as a location for waste disposal. These new regulations will progress the safety even further.