Dozens of homeowners and farmers crowded into the Forward Township municipal building on Monday to learn about a seismic survey under way in the township and surrounding communities related to gas production.
EQT Corp. and its contracted companies began seeking permission from property owners in the township about three weeks ago to undertake the testing, which will collect data eventually used to create a 52-square-mile three-dimensional map of gas deposits. That permitting process is also under way in Jefferson Hills, which is included in the survey area, but map makers say they have yet to begin working in other communities in the survey, which include Clairton, Elizabeth Township, Elizabeth, West Elizabeth, South Park, Union Township, Carroll Township, New Eagle and Monongahela.
Once the companies developing the map for EQT — Cougar Land Services and Geokinetics — obtain the necessary permitting, a comprehensive map will be developed using information collected from underground blasting and surface vibration activities. Recording work is expected to begin in mid-June.
The underground testing involves using charges set 20 feet blow ground in 3-inch diameter holes to create seismic waves. Project officials say the tests will in most instances only create an audible “pop” that will not damage wildlife, water sources or buildings.
Keith McKay of Geokinetics said crews will set up a 300 foot buffer zone around the test holes to prevent damage to structures, springs and wells.
“We do not want to destroy any structure that is vital to you,” McKay said.
He said the company will be responsible for any damages caused by the testing work. He said the 300-foot buffer is more than adequate to protect property amenities, noting that given the size of the charge used, there will be no earth movement beyond 170 feet of shot sites.
After readings are taken, crews will refill and plug the drill holes.
On roadways and in other areas where drilling for shot testing is not practical, crews will use a low frequency vibration truck to produce seismic activity.
Testers will take readings from approximately every 220 feet over the entire map area.
McKay told property owners his company will take steps to make the impact from testing as minimal as possible.
Farm owner Amy Cline said she is worried that underground testing will have an impact on the spring on her property. She also noted the contract she was asked to sign granting the company’s permission to carry out the testing had no end date.
McKay said his company is willing to include reasonable time limits on the contract period. He estimated the work should only take about three weeks once testing gets under way. McKay said his company also is willing to hire someone to take flow tests on natural water sources before and after testing occurs as a means of gauging the impact of the testing on springs and wells.
When testing is under way, some property owners will have cables and underground listening devices, known as geophones, on their property.
Resident Jason Williams said he is concerned about damage that equipment might sustain or cause if it is installed on his farm.
McKay said farmers will not be held responsible for accidents that damage the testing equipment. He said crews will move the equipment if it is interfering with farm activities like putting up hay and pay for or repair damage caused to properties.
One resident asked if he had to grant the testers permission to enter his property.
Doug Garrett from Cougar Land Services told the man he did not have to, but noted it probably would be in his financial interests to do so in the event there is a good source of gas beneath his land. Garrett said areas where no testing occurs will appear as a blank spot on the survey map and likely will not be considered for future energy exploration.
Officials said EQT is spending millions of dollars to prepare the map.
EQT geologist James Pancake said of the township, “We know it’s a good area for gas production.” The map, he said, will help give a more accurate understanding of exactly where that gas is located.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.