HARTFORD - Thousands of feet of large white- and-black tubing snakes through yards, woods and alongside roadways, disappearing into the ground only to reappear on the other side of roadways in this rural township in eastern Trumbull County.
The temporary above-ground pipeline visible from state Route 305 near Bushnell-Campbell Road was installed to haul millions of gallons of fresh water, according to officials from BP North America Gas and the Trumbull County Engineer's Office, to the area's newly drilled Buckeye Well, just northwest of Hartford Township center. The water is necessary to hydraulically fracture the well, a process that begins releasing fossil fuels products from shale pockets hidden deep underground.
It's the second local BP well fracked with water piped rather than trucked to the site, an innovative way of aligning cost-saving measures and safety, said BP Director of Government and Public Affairs Curtis L. Thomas.
Special to Tribune Chronicle
Temporary waterlines have been set up to feed millions of gallons of fresh water needed to supply Trumbull County Utica Shale wells. These lines run along state Route 305 in Hartford near BP North America’s Buckeye Well.
With about 150,000 barrels of water needed to hydraulically fracture each horizontal well in the area's Utica Shale, finding alternate methods to obtain and transport the water has become an important focus of drilling companies like BP. The company is working on drilling its sixth northern Trumbull County Utica Shale well, just a tiny portion of the potential wells on about 105,000 acres of mineral rights secured by the petroleum giant in Trumbull County.
The company has used the temporary water lines in its first two wells, the Buckeye Well and the Lennington Well located in southern Johnston Township.
"There is a very clear safety advantage to the community and industry when using pipeline versus trucking," Thomas said this week. "A normal well requires approximately 1,500 truckloads of water. Installation and operation of above-ground temporary water lines requires a small fraction of these trips."
While Thomas said it is BP's strong preference to install the temporary pipe, each scenario is weighed individually, based on water transportation costs and other issues.
Some of those variables, he said, include things like proximity of the water source, volume needed, number of land tracts that must be crossed, trucking costs and additional, sometimes significant, costs to store water at the well site if it is brought in by truck.
Other issues often come into play as well.
Jack Simon, road use maintenance coordinator for the Trumbull County Engineer's Office who was involved in preliminary plans by waterline installers to bore under county roadways to provide water to BP's third local well, the Morrison Well in Mecca Township, said plans for those waterlines have been scrapped largely because of the concerns with crossing designated wetlands in the area.
Plans are still being developed for water transport to BP's fourth, fifth and sixth planned test wells in Mecca, Vernon and Johnston townships. The company expects to have several additional test wells drilled by year end.
After the fracking process is completed, some of the water that was brought in and treated with chemicals and sand must be removed from the site for disposal.
"Produced water will be trucked from the location to approved local injection wells and will not be transported via temporary lines," Thomas said.
During the early stages of drilling test wells, BP does not plan to recycle the wastewater, largely because there is an inadequate number of operational sites to take the water, Thomas said. Once BP moves into a development stage, Thomas said the company would look to recycle the water, he said.
Future drilling and fracking plans will be based on data acquired during drilling of the test wells, Thomas said.
"The data acquired through this process will help BP determine if we can build a material position in Ohio," he said. "Only after sufficient data is gathered about BP's acreage and reservoir capacity, which could include information from its own wells, state agencies and other operators in the area, will a concrete determination be made about BP's operational plans in the area. BP expects to have sufficient reservoir information by early 2014."