Ion GX Technology, a company that produces high fidelity underground maps, is attempting to produce a three-dimensional seismic map of the Marcellus formation over a 281-square-mile area (180,000 acres) covering nearly all of central and southern Armstrong County and crossing into parts of Westmoreland and Indiana counties. But they’ve hit a snag with the borough of Vandergrift (Westmoreland County), PA. Borough officials are concerned the technology used to create vibrations could potentially damage underground structures like sewer lines, so they’ve denied the company permission to test on public property.
GX, however, has tried to circumvent that denial by going direct to individual landowners to request permission, which has ticked off Vandergrift council members. The borough’s solicitor sent GX a letter telling them to “cease and desist” from trying to deal with private landowners in the borough under threat of a lawsuit. Sounds a bit dicey to tell a private company what it can and can’t do in private business transactions. The complication is, of course, if their activity did crack a sewer line…
It appears that Precision Geophysical, a company doing seismic testing in and around Chillicothe Road in Bainbridge (Cuyahoga County), OH, has stirred up a hornets’ nest of trouble with local homeowners. They used thumper trucks along the road without first gaining permission from each (possibly any) of the homeowners in the area, and in at least one case lied to a homeowner about what they were doing.
Precision’s actions have OH State Rep. Matt Lynch hopping mad and leading the charge to slap Precision with a large bill for damages they may have caused to structures in the area:
There hasn’t been much in the way of Utica Shale permits or drilling in Portage County, Ohio—yet. At least compared to other Ohio counties. At last official tally, Portage has seen 14 permits so far (see this MDN story).
That may about to change. Why would we think so? Because of orange cables strung along roadways throughout the county…
Halcon Resources continues to step up its presence (and telegraph its intentions) with drilling in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, Ohio. The latest indicator that Halcon is serious about eastern OH? The presence of 25 workers seeking permission from landowners to take seismic readings in the area:
Drilling in the Utica and Marcellus Shale in northwestern Pennsylvania is picking up. One strong indicator of that is the very active program of seismic testing now happening along roadways in Lawrence and Beaver counties:
Houston-based ION Geophysical GX Technologies recently made a request to Manor Township (Armstrong County, PA) to allow them onto town property to conduct seismic mapping of the Marcellus and other underground structures. The board of supervisors for the town turned them down.
Here’s what ION told the supervisors at a meeting in July about what they hoped to do:
Ion GX Technology is in the process of contacting landowners and filing the necessary paperwork to begin seismic testing in Armstrong County, PA along with some portions of Westmoreland and Indiana counties. Landowners do not have to grant permission for seismic testing and cannot be forced to do so.
Drilling companies like to know, as much as possible, where they stand the best chance of drilling. Horizontal hydraulic fracturing means every hole drilled is much more likely to produce gas (and oil) than a conventional vertical hole, but it’s still no guarantee. Not every hole produces. So to help eliminate as much guesswork as possible, drillers often purchase seismic test data.
Big trucks roll along roadways with large vibrators that emit ultrasonic waves into the ground (or in some cases “thump” the ground) and then record the echoes to draw a picture of the underground rock structure. Ever wonder what it looks like? Just watch the video below of ultrasonic trucks doing their work in Coshocton County, Ohio.
An article in The Marietta Times (Marietta, Ohio) does an excellent job of describing the process of seismic mapping recently performed in the City of Marietta. Having a map of underground structures—how the rock formations and layers are arranged—is worth millions to drillers. So they hire companies to create maps.
Cables are laid along side roadways and a truck moves along “stopping at regular intervals to lower large vibrating metal disks from each truck onto the road surface.” The cables record seismic vibrations and create a 2-dimensional map of structures under the surface.
The initial 2-D mapping shows what’s happening directly beneath the road. If companies see areas that pique their interest, they then order a 3-D map, a more involved process. But they hardly ever (perhaps never) order 3-D maps for cities because drillers typically don’t want to deal with signing hundreds or thousands of individual landowners over a relatively small area. So the question is, why were seismic trucks doing 2-D mapping inside the city limits of Marietta if no drillers would ever want to drill there?
Seismic testing to create a map of underground geology almost always precedes gas drilling. Seismic testing has been, and continues to be, very active in Centre County, PA, appropriately named being located smack in the middle of the state. Seismic testing usually involves large trucks thumping the ground to produce vibrations picked up by computers that use the sound waves to create 2D and 3D maps of what lies beneath. Sometimes helicopters are used, and sometimes holes are drilled and small explosive charges are ignited to create sound waves.