Reporter Bob Downing’s excellent article in the July 14th edition of The Akron Beacon Journal provides some surprising numbers on Ohio’s role in disposal of drilling waste from the Utica and Marcellus shale formations. In calendar year 2012, approximately 14.2 million barrels of drilling waste were disposed in Ohio’s injection wells. Of that total, 57.6%, or approximately 8.2 million barrels, came from out of state, mostly Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The remaining 6 million came from Ohio drilling sites.
Surprisingly, Portage County received the most waste, with 2,358,371 barrels. To put that figure in perspective, that many barrels would fill a train of tanker cars nearly 37 miles long. (By way of comparison, the State’s total intake of 14.2 million barrels would fill a train of tanker cars 220 miles long.) Ironically, four of the top six counties for disposal are located in Northeast Ohio, far from Ohio’s fracking epicenter in Southeast Ohio. In addition to Portage County, Trumbull County received 1.4 million barrels for disposal in 2012, Ashtabula County also received 1.4 million barrels, and Stark County received 772,347 barrels. Northeast Ohio’s dominance in drilling waste disposal results not from planning for the Utica and Marcellus shale plays, but from the convenience of having so many injection wells present from drilling Clinton sandstone in the 1970s and 1980s. Convenience of these Northeast Ohio wells is also a factor for drillers in western Pennsylvania, who have less than 10 injection wells to access in their own state (Ohio has over 200 active injection wells). Of the 2,358,371 barrels disposed in Portage County, 64.6% (1,522,900 barrels) came from out of state. Ohio and Portage County have little choice but to continue to be gracious hosts at their injection wells since interstate commerce is protected by the US Constitution, thereby prohibiting states and their subdivisions from restricting shipments of out-of-state wastes.