Tests precede drilling in Fearing Twp.

Fearing Township will soon be the site of seismic activity, as oil and gas company Protege III Energy makes its move to start its drilling process.

A meeting at the community building in Fearing Township on Thursday revealed the Tulsa, Okla.-based company is looking to start the process of seismic mapping by next month, said Washington County Commissioner David White.

“(Protege was) very forthcoming,” said White. “They said (the company and landowners) were all in partnership and they wanted landowners to know (what would be happening).”

Morris Hall, vice president of Protege Energy and vice president of Geosciences, said work will start in early July.

“(Residents will) see plainly marked survey crews,” he said. “It’ll be a six-week effort when we start. If we start the first of July, it’ll be the middle to end of August before we’re done.”

White said at the meeting Protege revealed the type of seismic testing that would be done in Fearing Township.

“It’s called doing an acoustic pulse,” he said.

Hall said the seismic activity would not create issues like the city of Marietta saw in July 2012, where vibrations were felt from some distance away from the “vibraseis” trucks. Instead of large trucks that thump the ground with large metal disks, the method Protege is using requires putting a small charge in the ground.

“We’ll drill a very shallow hole and put a small explosive in the hole and record the sound waves the explosive makes,” Hall said. “It allows us to properly locate (where to put) wells and have few issues while drilling.”

Hall said the comparisons between the charge and vibraseis trucks are small.

“It’s hard to believe but when we put that small charge (in the ground), there’s not any impact on the surface,” he said. “That’s one reason we went away from the vibrating trucks and weight drop; it’s 20 feet below the surface.”

Hall said potential problems are trying to be minimized.

“We’re trying to avoid problems by one, staying away from structures and two, using a method that puts the vibrations 20 feet underground,” he said. “Anytime you talk about a charge, people get concerned, and rightfully so…Other methods risk more (surface) damage…We’re not acquiring data in the city so this is the best place to do this method.”

The charges will be sent off 500 feet from any residences and 350 feet from any structures like water wells and only two to three pounds of explosives will be used.

Hall said right now, the company is securing permits to be able to begin the process of testing the ground.

What residents can expect to see are cables with orange stakes put into the ground. These “geophones” will record the vibrations and will help Protege determine where fault lines are so they can avoid them while drilling a horizontal well.

During the meeting, Hall said most of those in attendance gave approval for the seismic testing.

“We’ve already received about 50 percent of landowner approval for permitting at the meeting,” Hall said, adding the takeaway is that after concerns and questions were addressed and answered, landowners felt comfortable giving the company permission.

Hall said that going forward, residents with concerns can contact any survey crew they see, or a Protege representative that will be in the area when the seismic activity starts. They can also contact him directly, he said.

The bulk of the work will be around Caywood and fan out to the south and east.

“The hospitality and graciousness of the Caywood community, it’s much appreciated,” said Hall. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years and haven’t come across a nicer group of folks.”

He said there is an ultimate goal after the seismic testing is complete.

“We’re going to leave (the land) like we found it,” said Hall.

Meanwhile, similar seismic testing is still on hold in other parts of the county.

Beverly Councilman Jay Arnold said council’s April resolution to allow seismic testing in the city is still on hold until the council can hear the reworded resolution, as City Solicitor Tom Webster suggested.

“I remember a few years ago, when the testing went on in Marietta, (and problems that came with that),” Arnold said. “If anything went wrong with the company performing seismic testing (in Beverly), we wanted to make sure they have insurance to take care of any damage. We want to make sure we’re protected.”

As of yet, Arnold said the final resolution has not yet come up, but that it will hopefully hit the council’s table soon.