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Researchers Scout Out New Locations to Store Fracking Wastewater

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A team of scientists with the research group Battelle are investigating the best locations to store wastewater from oil and gas drilling. ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports their findings may help Ohio determine how many more injection wells the state needs.

Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Earlier this year, Columbus based Battelle received a 1.8 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to scout out the best spots for future injection wells in eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and parts of West Virginia and Kentucky.

Neeraj Gupta is a senior research leader with Battelle. He says there are several factors that make a location prime for an injection well. One is close proximity to a cluster of oil and gas wells, which helps to cut down on transportation costs.

But geology also plays a big role. Injection wells are drilled thousands of feet underground, and Gupta says some layers of rock are more conducive to holding fluid than others.

“You want to make sure that the injection layer that you have has sufficient thickness, enough porosity or pore space to accept the fluids, and also permeability that controls the rate of injection that you have.”

Gupta says the number of new injection wells Ohio will need in the future depends on how quickly the volume of fracking increases in the next few years. Another consideration is how much wastewater from out of state will be disposed of here.

Gupta says his team's research is aimed at identifying spots that can accept wastewater over long periods.

“There are some injection wells that operate for many decades without any problems. So it just depends on the geology and the type of rocks that you find.”

Ohio currently has 188 injection wells in operation. A spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources says of the 14 million gallons of wastewater Ohio injected last year, roughly 57 percent of it came from other states.

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