Huntley & Huntley Targets New Drilling in Westmoreland County, PA
It’s been a few years since MDN has written a post about seismic testing. Typically before land gets leased and drilled on, drillers will contract with seismic testing companies to conduct a mapping survey of the land. The survey does not show the surface, but rather the sub-surface–a kind of “x-ray” of what the rock layers look like deep underground. Drillers then use that information to determine the best places to drill. Seismic surveys, like every aspect of drilling, is not without controversy (see our previous stories about seismic testing here). Folks understandably have concerns. Will the survey company use dynamite charges? Will they use those big “thumper” trucks? Will it affect water wells? Sewer lines? All legitimate questions. On Monday city officials from Lower Burrell (Westmoreland County), PA asked a lot of tough questions of seismic contractors hired by Huntley and Huntley to map the township–presumably (and the point of this post) so that H&H can soon apply for permits and commence with new drilling in the town. Here’s how it went…
City officials voiced concerns Monday about the effects of seismic testing on Lower Burrell’s sewer and water lines.
Representatives of two companies contracted by Huntley and Huntley, the natural gas drilling company, described for council what they plan to do to map out the area’s subsurface.
“We’re doing a 3-D seismic survey that covers 202 square miles, and you just happen to be in it,” Doug Garrett of Cougar Land Services told council.
Garrett compared the testing to a medical scan used to determine what is happening inside a human body. He said the idea is to get a picture of what the subsurface is like before any natural gas exploration takes place. Testing is to begin July 1, and he estimated work would take place in Lower Burrell during that month.
“You’re not going to be using any dynamite in an urban area are you?” solicitor Steve Yakopec asked Garrett.
Garret said that would not be happening in heavily populated areas. He said instruments buried in the ground along roads, about 220 feet apart, will be used to measure seismic waves and form the subsurface picture.
Property owners must give their consent to allow the instruments to be placed on their properties, and the company pays them for that, Garrett said.
The energy for those waves will be created by heavy trucks, about the size of garbage trucks, that send vibrations into the ground, he said. In rural areas where there are no paved roads to accommodate the vibration trucks, he said, explosive charges would be used.
Garrett said those charges weighing about 3.3 pounds are planted in holes drilled 30 feet deep, then detonated to provide the seismic energy needed.
Todd Fockler of Planetary Exploration, the other company represented, said most people living nearby might hear a thump, something like a door slamming.
“I know council was concerned with the explosives having an effect on the sewer and water lines,” Yakopec said, adding that the explosives are heavily regulated by state agencies.
Fockler said the explosions would take place no closer than 325 feet to the sewer and water lines, in accordance with state regulations.
As for the effects of vibrations from the trucks, he reassured city officials that it would not harm the sewer and water lines.
“We know from years and years of experience it’s not going to do any more than a heavy truck going down the road,” Fockler said.
Garrett said they have done this testing throughout Western Pennsylvania, citing communities including Peters and Elizabeth Borough.
Councilman Frank Trozzi said he had concerns going into the meeting regarding the sewer and water lines and use of explosives, and that’s why he asked the Huntley and Huntley contractors to appear.
He said after hearing the presentation, his concerns were eased. “The fact that they have done this before in so many places makes me feel better about it,” Trozzi said.
Garrett said before the testing begins, city officials will be provided with a map of where the testing crews are going and the energy sources they will be using at each place.
In response to a resident’s question, Fockler said properties would be restored if any damage occurs.*
*Pittsburgh (PA) Tribune-Review (May 2, 2017) – Lower Burrell officials grill drilling firm contractors on seismic survey safety