Among the most promising prospects for reviving Ohio’s economy is the development of the Utica Shale, a geologic formation thought to be rich with oil and natural gas and comparable to the more-developed Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Environmentally sound disposal of the associated waste fluids is an essential requirement for developing this resource without resorting to discharge into streams. Preferred Fluids Management plans a state-of-the-art facility for disposal of non-hazardous oilfield waste fluids, using oilfield disposal well technology that has proven protective of both surface water and groundwater resources over decades of successful use.
Oil and gas operations have long generated large volumes of waste fluids. However, these oilfield wastes are usually too salty to be responsibly disposed of through the normal process of treatment and discharge to streams used for municipal and industrial wastewaters. Since at least the 1930s, the energy industry has used underground injection to dispose of their fluids, returning them to the subsurface from which they were produced and where they have been safely confined for eons.
Today, some 99% of all fluids produced by oil and gas land-based exploration and production activities in the United States are disposed of through underground injection. U.S. EPA statistics indicate that nationwide some 144,000 injection wells receive over two billion gallons of waste fluid daily-similar to the volume of New York City’s daily water demand, or enough to cover almost a square mile with water 10 feet deep. The practice has a remarkable history of safe, effective performance. The extremely few failures to protect the groundwater are nearly always the result of construction and operating standards that predate modern federal regulations instituted in the 1970s.
The Appalachian shale formations such as the Marcellus and the Utica represent game-changing amounts of natural gas-enough to supply existing U.S. gas demand for 10 to 20 years, while creating dramatic economic impact from regional spending and employment. However, the development and production of shale resources generates especially large volumes of wastewater—usually called “flowback,” “brine,” “saltwater,” or “produced water,” depending on local usage and the stage in the well’s lifespan when it is produced. Although treatment strategies for the fluids are available that reduce volume or enable reuse, the salt content can’t be treated away, and reuse isn’t always an option. Underground injection is the only recognized industry technology for disposing of significant volumes of salty wastewater.
The new natural gas resources in the Marcellus shale are in areas where the geologic formations suitable for effective underground injection don’t exist. The geologic formations used by Pennsylvania’s handful of disposal wells are incapable of accepting meaningful amounts of water and efforts to develop new ones have been disappointing. Ohio’s geology is better suited for underground injection and the state has a long history of safe injection practices and effective regulation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Mineral Resources. Mansfield’s Railport Industrial Park has been selected for the site of its first two wells owing to its favorable geology, access to rail service and good road access. This two-well facility will differ from most existing wells in that:
Ample, modern disposal operations, such as Preferred’s planned state-of-the-art facility, are essential to the development of the region’s immense new energy resource. Developing the Utica Shale, which extends further west into Ohio than the Marcellus Shale, will require reliable, effective disposal facilities such as Preferred’s to realize the Utica’s potential to revitalize the Ohio economy.