|COLUMBUS, OH – Ohio’s oil and gas regulators today announced new environmentally responsible standards for transporting and disposing of brine, a by-product of oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing. The new regulatory framework makes Ohio’s rules for brine monitoring and disposal among the nation’s toughest. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) developed the new regulations after researching the link between a series of seismic events in the Youngstown area and a brine disposal well.
The new safeguards: prohibit any new wells to be drilled into the Precambrian basement rock formation; mandate operators submit extensive geological data before drilling; and implement state-of-the-art pressure and volume monitoring devices including automatic shut-off switches and electronic data recorders. In addition, ODNR will require that brine haulers install electronic transponders to ensure “cradle to grave” monitoring of all shipments.
“Ohio has developed a new set of regulatory standards that positions the state as a national leader in safe and environmentally responsible brine disposal,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “Ohioans demand smart environmental safeguards that protect our environment and promote public health. These new standards accomplish this goal.”
The new safeguards will be added to Ohio’s existing disposal well regulatory framework. The regulations will apply to new Class II disposal well permit applications and to existing disposal wells, if applicable. Ohio regulates Class II disposal wells on behalf of the U.S. EPA. In 1983, the U.S. EPA gave Ohio regulatory authority over its Underground Injection Control program because the state’s disposal well regulations met or exceeded U.S. EPA standards.
The comprehensive list of proposed new regulations includes:
All of the reforms will be considered during the permitting process for new Class II disposal wells and will be implemented as attached permit conditions until they are either codified in law or written into administrative rule, which carries the weight of law.
ODNR also released a preliminary report on the relationship between the Northstar 1 Class II disposal well and 12 Youngstown area earthquakes.
Geologists believe induced seismic activity is extremely rare, but it can occur with the confluence of a series of specific circumstances. After investigating all available geological formation and well activity data, ODNR regulators and geologists found a number of co-occurring circumstances strongly indicating the Youngstown area earthquakes were induced. Specifically, evidence gathered by state officials suggests fluid from the Northstar 1 disposal well intersected an unmapped fault in a near-failure state of stress causing movement along that fault.
All of the conditions associated with induced seismic activity are addressed in Ohio’s new well permitting and construction regulations.
According to the U.S. EPA, more than 144,000 Class II disposal wells inject more than two billion gallons of brine every day in the United States. The U.S. EPA considers the deep injection of brine using Class II disposal wells as the preferred and environmentally safe method for disposal of oilfield fluid wastes. Prior to Class II disposal wells in Ohio, brine was stored in surface pits with harmful environmental results.
For more information, contact:
Carlo LoParo, ODNR Office of Communications