March 7, 2013
By Kimberly Rivers
A new oilfield waste disposal facility, including an underground injection well for storing oilfield fluids (and potentially fracking fluids) could become a reality in Ojai’s backyard in the very near future.
Pending before county planners is a proposal from Anterra Waste for a new Class II oilfield waste disposal facility, near the Santa Clara River in Santa Paula. “Class II fluids are waste streams associated with oil and natural gas production operations,” according to the notice on the county’s website.
Related to that proposal, Anterra is pursuing a lease for county land — about a half mile from proposed facility — to drill and operate a Class II injection well that would inject waste from oil and natural gas production deep into the earth for disposal and storage.
Mirada Petroleum also has applied to the county of Ventura to expand an existing conditional use permit for oil leases in Upper Ojai behind St. Thomas Aquinas College, paving the way for eight new oil wells.
A public hearing is set for March 21 regarding their application. Ventura County staff reports are not yet ready, but must be released 10 days prior to the hearing.
“Yes, hydraulic fracturing fluids would be handled at a Class II facility,” said Brian Baca Ventura County planning manager for commercial and industrial permits. Hydraulic fracturing — also called fracking — is a process following conventional drilling, aimed at extracting oil and gas from hard shale rock formations deep in the earth. Fresh water blended with a chemical mix is injected at high pressure into the shale rock, effectively fracturing the rock and releasing oil and gas. The water and chemicals injected, as well as water sitting underground with the oil — called produced water — comes back to the surface and is moved to a treatment and disposal site.
Some communities on the East Coast have opted to ban both the process of fracking and the storage of “frack fluids” within their jurisdictions.
The oil and gas industry points to the safety record of such treatment facilities and injection wells, while some geologists, engineers and others watching the growth in the number of injection wells consider the potential to change the subsurface conditions.
This may be of concern in areas like the Ojai Valley and other parts of Ventura County with high numbers of fault lines. Stories of earthquakes and rumblings in the earth in the Midwest first associated directly with fracking are now being thought to come from the effects of injection wells.
“It is not a done deal,” said Brian Baca, regarding Anterra’s application. “ We have requested more information from the applicant and cannot proceed with the permitting process until we receive a response. Anterra already operates one Class II facility in Oxnard and plans to move to Santa Paula.” The company has facilities in Ventura and Kern counties.
“DOGGR does not regulate (Class II) wastewater facilities,” said Don Drysdale, from the public affairs office of the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). However, “DOGGR has primacy over Class II injection wells under an agreement with U.S. EPA.”
DOGGR is responsible for permitting, inspection, enforcement and other areas of regulation including the construction, testing and inspection of the injection wells. “The application must include a detailed engineering study including a flood-pattern map showing all injection, production and plugged and abandoned wells, and unit boundaries. The casing diagrams in the engineering study must evidence that plugged and abandoned wells in the area will not have an adverse effect on the project or cause damage to life, health, property, or natural resources,” according to the DOGGR website.
Visit http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/general_information/Pages/UICApplicationGuidance.aspx for information on the DOGGR Class II Underground Injection Control Program.