A legal notice appearing in a southeast Kansas newspaper earlier this month prompted some Crawford County residents to do some digging to prevent further digging.
The notice informs readers that "See Oil" a company out of Stark, Kan. filed an application to allow the injection of saltwater into a lease in northern Crawford County. The practice of saltwater injections is reminiscent of the "fracking" or the process of injecting liquid at a high pressure underground to extract oil and gas. Fracking is blamed for recent earthquakes throughout the Midwest.
The property in question is known as the "Lorene Burge lease" and is owned by the Lorene Burge trust. It sits in northern Crawford County near Farlington, with 33 active oil wells on site. Tax statements for the land are mailed to a Tampa, Fla. address.
A group of concerned citizens came together forming a Facebook page called "No Fracking in Crawford County". The group had their first official meeting at the Pittsburg Public Library on Wednesday evening. The two major areas of concern are water quality and increased seismic activity.
"Even minor seismic activity in this region poses a risk because nothing here is built to withstand it. And as everybody felt a few weeks ago, earthquakes can have a wide-reaching effect and it's something we have to pay attention to," concerned citizen Michael Fienen said.
The meeting discussed how citizens can take a stand and contact the Kansas Corporation Commission, the group who oversees the application process for the saltwater injections.
"How do they know where the water is going? I mean, when they're putting it into the ground, how do they know for sure where it might be dispersing? Personally I don't know how they can control it that well," LaStacia Ross said, a member of No Fracking in Crawford County who spoke on behalf of the group.
During the meeting, a member pointed out that earthquakes do not respect borders, much like the recent Oklahoma earthquake that left some damage throughout Missouri and Kansas.
"I don't think it's about saying we can't have saltwater injections in Crawford County. I don't think it's about saying we can't drill for oil or this or that, I think it's about knowing that what is happening is being done right and it's being done safely. And it's being done with the communities in mind," Fienen said.
A petition put out by the group that garnered 230 signatures was sent off to the KCC.
The group filed an objection to the application, which triggers a public hearing before saltwater injections can continue. A date for the hearing has not been set yet.
The Kansas Corporation Commission welcomed feedback from the group.
Press Release from "No Fracking in Crawford County":
Residents of Crawford County are concerned an application for saltwater injection could pose a threat to ground water and cause an increase in earthquake activity. The community members have objected to the application and are seeking a public hearing from the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC). On December 13, 2016, See Oil filed an application for a permit from the KCC to authorize the injection of saltwater into the Burge Lease in Crawford County. A notice published in the Morning Sun newspaper alerted community members to the application and started a discussion about whether the saltwater injection could pose a danger to public health and safety. Residents organized a Facebook page, No Fracking in Crawford County, to share information and organize a community response. Within two weeks, the group had over 380 members. “People are concerned about the risks of saltwater injection, which is why the Facebook page became so popular so quickly,” says Kristin Maun, a resident of Crawford County. “People want an opportunity to express their concerns and participate in a meaningful discussion about saltwater injection wells and fracking in our county.” Saltwater is one of the fluids injected into Class II injections wells, which are regulated by the KCC. Also known as brine water, saltwater is produced when oil and gas are produced. Saltwater may also contain drilling mud, well treatment fluids, or residual hydrocarbons. It is often disposed of by injecting it back into the rock formation. The other fluid injected into Class II injection wells is hydraulic fracturing fluid, more commonly known as fracking fluid. The KCC regulates saltwater injections to ensure that the disposal does not pollute ground water. Recently, the KCC has also taken action to reduce saltwater injection rates due to an increase in earthquake activity that posed an immediate danger to the health, safety, and welfare of public. The Kansas Geographical Survey has attributed the increase in earthquake activity to saltwater injections. The community group prepared a letter to the KCC and objected to the See Oil application on the grounds that permitting the saltwater injection could pose an immediate threat to groundwater and cause an increase in seismic activity. They also delivered a petition signed by 229 residents opposed to saltwater injection in Crawford County. The KCC will now schedule a public hearing regarding the See Oil application. “We look forward to the public hearing as an opportunity to present our concerns to See Oil and the KCC,” says Lastacia Ross, a resident of Crawford County. “We want to be sure that if the application is approved, it will not endanger the people and natural resources of Crawford County.” Whether KCC approves the application, No Fracking in Crawford County will continue to provide a place for community members to discuss saltwater injection wells and organize responses to future applications. “This has been an incredible opportunity for people to learn about saltwater injections and how they can exercise their rights as concerned citizens,” says Mona Jurshak, a resident of Crawford County. “We have learned that we can have a say about what happens in our backyard.”
Permit # E-11453: Burge Lease, Crawford County, KS
EOR is a common practice throughout Kansas to recover additional oil reserves when the oil reservoir moves beyond its primary production phase and additional energy is necessary to produce the reserves remaining in place. The most common form of EOR in Kansas is a waterflood. Almost all oil bearing formations in Kansas also contain saltwater. The saltwater is brought to the surface with the oil and separated so the oil can be marketed to the first purchaser. The salt water is either then injected into a disposal well that is completed in a formation separate and usually deeper than the producing formation, or it is injected into an EOR well that returns the salt water to the producing formation in an effort to help move the remaining oil to the producing wells while maintaining the reservoir pressure necessary to facilitate the movement of the oil. The original permit for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations on the Burge Lease was granted in 1964.
The operator filed to amend their injection permit in October 2016 to gain authority to re-inject water at four existing wells. Conservation staff reviewed the amended application to ensure the wells’ proposed construction conformed to the regulations in place to protect fresh and usable water. Subsequently the wells all passed mechanical integrity tests. During a mechanical integrity test, pressure is applied to a column of fluid in the well. The test results will demonstrate if an issue exists that would allow the re-injected salt water to escape the wellbore at any depth other than the injection interval. The application to amend was granted on November 28, 2016 as there were no protests and the wells’ construction satisfied Commission regulations.
A recent public concern for injection wells is induced seismicity; however, staff does not believe that to be a concern for these particular wells for several reasons. First, these are not salt water disposal wells putting fluids into the Arbuckle formation directly above the faulted basement. In this application, the fluid is being re-injected into the Peru Sand approximately 200 feet below the surface. The Arbuckle formation in this part of the state is approximately 1,000 feet below the surface or roughly 800 feet deeper than the re-injection zone. Further, one of the main concerns with induced seismicity is the volume of water disposed. The wells in southcentral Kansas where seismicity has increased in recent years averaged more than 4,000 barrels per well per day. By comparison, the wells in this application are only permitted for 50 barrels per day per well. Therefore the type of injection, depth, and volumes are all significantly different than the areas where seismicity has increased.
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