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Class II Underground Injection Wells

Class II underground injection wells, of which there are about 168,000 in the United States, are regulated either by the state or the US EPA. A technical review is mandatory to make sure that there will be no chance of contaminating drinking water sources. These wells are used for disposing of salt water, enhanced oil recovery, and hydrocarbon storage. Typically, 10 barrels of salt water are produced with each barrel of crude oil. Enhanced oil recovery wells use the salt water to push the oil into the oil-producing wells. Hydrocarbon storage wells are used to store crude oil and liquid hydrocarbons underground. The wells have a casing made of concrete and it is cemented from below the lowest drinking water strata to the surface. The amount of pressure applied in the process is limited by the US EPA to avoid any potential of groundwater contamination.

The Government Accountability Office report on the protection of underground sources of drinking water from injection of fluids associated with oil and gas production concludes that there are problems that need to be addressed to protect the groundwater supply. They found that the safeguards against contamination of underground sources of drinking water do not include emerging problems such as seismic activity and too much pressure in geological formations causing outbreaks of fluids on the surface. Part of this is because of a lack of financial resources to carry out the necessary evaluations, and also the rulemaking process is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Even though considerable data are collected on the Class II program, the data are not complete or comparable from site to site. (See endnote 68.)

 
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