Fracking Comes to Strongsville
New gas wells going in off Albion, Webster will use controversial method
A pair of gas/oil wells going in off Webster and Albion roads will use the controversial "fracking" method to reach the underground resources.
It marks the first time a company has used hydraulic fracturing -- injecting chemically treated water into a well to open up previously unreachable supplies of oil and natural gas -- in Strongsville.
But Fire Chief Jeff Branic said a meeting on Tuesday with the driller and a state inspector eased his mind about the wells, partly because the drilling is being monitored.
"I'm confident the state inspector is on top of things," Branic said.
And he said these wells won't be as deep as some fracked wells -- these will go down only about the standard 3,000 feet -- and will be vertical only.
Some of the controversy about fracking has to do with horizontal drilling that can extend more than a mile from the drill site.
"It's really not dissimilar from what's gone on with well drilling in years past," said Branic, who said drillers previously dropped dynamite into wells to fracture the shale.
Residents OK Drilling
M & M Royalty of North Canton has started work on a well off Albion Road just west of Webster Road, and has erected another sign on Webster Road a bit south of Whitney Road.
Council President Mike Daymut, who represents the area, said the sites are two separate 20-acre parcels or residential land.
Residents who live in the area joined their properties together to create enough acreage for the drilling, and stand to benefit financially if oil or gas is found.
But if fracking has come to Strongsville, Daymut has plenty of concerns.
"It's obviously controversial all over the state," he said. "I really don't think they have a good handle on the environmental impact."
Neither Daymut nor Branic -- or any city official -- has any say over it. Ohio took over control of drilling several years ago.
Fracking has made its way through Ohio, which is covered with a layer of Marcellus shale that has, until now, trapped large reservoirs of natural gas and oil.
The process uses chemically treated water at high pressure to break through the shale and extract the resources.
Fracking can involve drilling a hole as deep as 8,000 feet, then extending it up to two miles horizontally.
Proponents say the process, which has been around about 50 years, is safe.
Opponents say it releases toxic chemicals into the ground and can lead to earthquakes, ruin people's wells and even cause houses to explode.
"People still have (water) wells," said Daymut, who lives next to the drill site. "They run the risk of contamination."
No Large-Scale Fracking Ahead
Branic said he felt much better about the risks after touring the site and talking with the state inspector.
He said as the well is drilled, a cement casing is poured 200 to 300 feet down -- below the water table -- to prevent any of the chemicals from getting into the ground.
"At this point, I'd say the risk is acceptable," Branic said. "Could something go wrong? Of course. But locally, we don't have any jurisdiction over this."
There are a number of gas wells operating in Strongsville, although most are in more rural areas. Last year, a different company drilled for gas off Webster Road, but that well came up dry.
Drilling has already started at the Albion site. Branic said the driller uses a device to muffle noise from the rig during the drilling, which will go on 24/7 for about a week.
Branic said that while the way of opening the shale is technically termed "fracking," the major fracking operations are not likely to come to Strongsville.
"The driller told me he doubts we'll ever see the horizontal rigs because of the amount of land that would be needed," he said.