Friday, May 29, 2009

Seismic testing causes concern

This article was published on May 29, 2009 in The Daily Advocate.

Ann Vehre
Citizen Jornalist

GREENVILLE - Jim Surber, Darke County Engineer, and Jed Smith, Van Buren township trustee, announced on May 19 a seismic survey involving vibroseis trucks has been halted within the jurisdictions of Greenville, Neave, and Van Buren Townships, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and Darke County.
The trucks would have traveled within a four to seven mile cross section surrounding The Andersons Marathon Ethanol Plant in Greenville’s Industrial Park. As they traveled the area, vibrating platforms would have been lowered to the ground, emitting sound waves deep within the earth’s surface. In recent seismic brochures the Battelle-led Midwest Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership (MRCSP) has put on display in the Greenville Public Library and throughout the area, it is explained that as sound waves bounce from the rock surfaces below, they are recorded above to determine if there are existing faults and fractures that could generate earthquakes from seismic activity.
Battelle selected the ethanol plant site as part of a $93 million experiment funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and matching funds from MRCSP’s thirty-six partners. The purpose of the experiment is to determine if one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) can be injected safely and easily into the Mount Simon Sandstone Reservoir throughout a four-year period. They said it would also determine the storage potential of the reservoir, which will have broad importance to the region.
The seismic survey would have been the first in a series of tests that must take place on and around the plant site before the experimental injection of one million tons of CO2 can begin. This is necessary, they said, because the injection of 1,500 lbs per sq inch of CO2 under pressure could cause subsurface rocks to slip, resulting in an earthquake. A second test, if permitted, would require drilling several bore holes through the bottom of a major freshwater aquifer to obtain rock samples from the Mount Simon Sandstone reservoir. This reservoir is 3,500 feet below the Earth’s surface.
According to Surber, the decision to halt the seismic survey occurred after Christopher Jones of QC Geophysical in Millersburg, and Evan Zeller of Battelle asked him and the Neave, Van Buren, and Greenville Township Trustees for permission to conduct seismic tests on the roads and land in their jurisdictions. After conferring with a representative from District 7 of the Ohio Department of Transportation, Surber said that he and the trustees felt there were too many unanswered questions regarding liability and responsibility issues from possible tile, road, property and other damages that might occur as a result of the seismic tests.
Their major concern, however, was for the public’s safety and welfare, particularly because the planned survey and testing route, was in close proximity to the Vectren high-pressure gas transmission line. “I notified Vectren and now they are quite concerned as well,” Surber said.
During an earlier meeting with the township trustees, Surber expressed another concern he has, which is in regard to explosive charges in shot holes where the vibroseis trucks could not be used if the ground happened to be too soft or hilly. Instead of the trucks being used to produce sound waves, the charges would be used instead. “I was told the charges would be no stronger than those put off by cherry bombs,” he said, adding, “Let me tell you right now, it would take a charge a lot bigger than a cherry bomb to produce vibrations that could reach the depths they are talking about.”
As a result of the concerns expressed and the questions that remained unanswered, Surber and Smith sent a letter to Jones Geophysical stating they could not entertain entering into any agreements to permit any vibroseis surveys/testing to be done on any public roads or public facilities located on private property in the respective jurisdictions.
With this letter, Surber said they have stopped the seismic survey - - at least for the time being.