Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions About Wastewater Injection

What are Class II Injection Wells?

Class II Injection Wells safely return water associated with the production of oil and natural gas to the layer of earth where it came from.

You can read more about Class II Injection Wells here.

Why Do We Need Injection Wells?

During oil and natural gas production, gallons of brine are brought to the earth’s surface.  Brine is saltier than seawater and can be dangerous to life. Class II Injection Wells safely return this saltwater back into earth.

What are Injection Wells Like?

After drilling occurs to construct an injection well, a steel pipe (called a casing) is firmly cemented down the entire length of the hole.  The thick cement layer and casing stops liquids from mixing with each other. The casing and cement have a hole in it opposite the injection zone.

To provide a third layer of protection, tubing is placed into the well just above the hole and a packer is inserted to create a watertight seal against the casing.  The packer prevents water from entering the space between the tubing and casing when water is injected down the tubing.

Several tests are then done to make sure the well is operating properly and the injected fluids are kept where they should.  These tests are then regularly repeated on a routine schedule.

Read more about Injection Wells here.

What are Injection Zones Like?

Our injection zone is located in deep into the earth, in a sandstone formation.  Sandstone is a rock that is absorbent enough to accept injected fluids. We chose our particular injection zones because they’re covered by shale, an impenetrable rock that acts like a cap to further keep injected water in the porous sandstone bed.

How is Produced Water Handled?

After oil and gas are separated from the produced water at our clients’ production well, the water is trucked to the injection site. There, the water is transferred to holding tanks, filtered, and pumped into the Class II injection well.

How Often are Injection Wells Checked?

Penneco Environmental Solutions’ injection wells are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by our highly trained and qualified engineers to ensure proper operation and high levels of structural and mechanical integrity.  Monitoring includes reviewing operational data and running tests like temperature and pressure tests. In addition, our wells are regularly inspected by federal and state branches of the Environmental Protection Agency. .

Read more about the EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program here.

Are Injection Wells and Wastewater Disposal Regulated?

Yes.  Depending on which state an injection well is located, either the US or state Environmental Protection Agency regulates the construction, operation, permitting, and closure of injection wells.

How are Injection Wells Permitted?

Depending on which state the injection well is located, either the US or state Environmental Protection Agency issues a permit.

Operators of Class II Injection Wells file for a permit with the EPA.  Before the permit is issued, the injection project is closely studied by engineers and then further reviewed by various oversight entities.

The EPA’s engineers evaluate the geologic and engineering information, obtain public comments, and hold a public hearing. Injection project permits include extensive conditions, such as site approval, injection well temperatures and pressures, safe construction, and monitoring requirements.

Are Injection Wells Safe?

Yes. Class II Injection Wells provide a safe and reliable way to safely dispose of fluids associated with oil and gas production operations. Not only are they are constructed using a multilayer protection system, they also go through rigorous testing and regular monitoring to ensure that our sources of drinking water are protected.

You can read more about Injection Wells here.

Is Wastewater ‘Toxic Waste’?

While the water that is returned to the earth is dangerous to life on the surface, it is not what most of us refer to as toxic waste.  The wastewater that is injected back into the earth is the same water that was extracted during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Is Wastewater ‘Nuclear Waste’?

No.  Nuclear waste results from nuclear power generation and other types of nuclear technology.  While the water that is injected back into the earth may contain metals and radioactive elements, they are naturally occurring, and not the result of nuclear activity performed by humans.

Does Wastewater Disposal Cause Earthquakes?

Numerous studies have been conducted to determine whether Class II Injection Wells are associated with earthquakes.  None have found a conclusive connection between wastewater disposal and increased seismic activity.
You can download a few of these studies here and here.

Is This the Same Thing As ‘Fracking’?

No. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking’, is the process of drilling down into the earth to recover oil and natural gas.  Class II wastewater disposal returns the water obtained from fracking back into the earth.

Why Can’t This Water Just Be Dumped Into a River or Ocean?

During oil and natural gas extraction, large amounts of brine (saltwater) are recovered from the earth’s deepest layers.  Brine is saltier than seawater, and can damage the environment and public health if disposed of in surface water.  Class II Injection Wells return brine to the layers of the earth where it naturally occurs.

Why Can’t We Just Use This As Drinking Water?

During fracking, gallons of saltwater, known as brine, are extracted along with oil and natural gas.  Because this water is saltier than seawater and contains heavy metals, it is not safe to drink.  Class II Injection Wells put this saltwater back into the earth where it naturally comes from.

Where Does Wastewater Come From?

The earth’s deepest layers naturally contain a very salty water known as brine.  Brine is saltier than seawater, and would damage the environment and public health if it were on the earth’s surface water.  During oil and natural gas extraction, large amounts of this saltwater are recovered from the earth’s deepest layers.  Class II Injection Wells safely return this brine to the layers of the earth where it naturally occurs.

Is Injecting Wastewater Helpful In Any Way?

It can be.  Some Class II Injection Wells are Enhanced Oil Recovery Wells.  These are used to increase oil production and lengthen the life of oil fields by injecting water that was co-produced during hydraulic fracturing back into the earth where it can produce more oil and natural gas.

Can Wastewater Leak Into Places It Shouldn’t?

No.  Not only are injection wells constructed using a highly regulated multilayer protection system, they also undergo regular testing and monitoring by our engineers.  Some of these include frequently checking the temperature, pressure, and volume; closely examining the structural integrity of the injection well; and carefully testing the mechanical operations of the well and injection process.  Additionally, regulators from the Environmental Protection Agency conduct audits and testing of injection wells and operational procedures.

What Happens When Injection Wells Get Full?

After many, many years, an injection well can reach a volume where it can no longer safely accept injected water.  Once this occurs, a cement plug is placed in the well over the injection zone.  Additional thick layers of cement are also placed across the base of the lowest level of underground sources of drinking water, as well as near the injection well’s surface.

Still Have Questions?