Seismic testing is under way in Kent and Portage County to map Ohio's shale formations for oil and natural gas drilling.
Precision Geophysical, a seismic technology firm out of Millersburg, OH, is conducting tests throughout Northeast Ohio and started rolling through Franklin Township and Kent this week.
The firm is using a combination of geophones, short sensors that stick a few inches into the ground, and "vibe trucks" to create images of the rock beds miles beneath the surface.
Mark Zimmerman, a permit agent for Precision Geophysical, said the firm laid cable throughout Kent in order to use the geophones to detect vibrations in the ground that will be used to create two-and-three dimensional images of the shale formations.
"It’s basically like taking a picture of the different rock layers under the ground," Zimmerman said. "What we’re doing in the city of Kent is part of a larger project that spans from the city of Kirtland all the way down to Noble County."
Part of the imaging process typically includes what are called vibe trucks, which look like huge earth movers. The vibe trucks have a foot underneath them that is slowly set on the ground and emits high-frequency vibrations. Those vibrations are read by the geophones to create the underground imagery, Zimmerman said.
"There’s really no thumping going on," he said.
The trucks are typically used on public streets and right-of-ways.
But the vibe trucks aren't rolling in Kent despite making appearances in Franklin Township this past week with expected appearances in Brimfield Township this coming week.
Kent Service Director Gene Roberts said the city required Precision Geophysical to post a nearly $750,000 5-year insurance bond to have permission to use the trucks on city streets.
Roberts said they requested the bond over concerns the high-frequency vibrations could cause micro fractures in the pavement that eventually could lead to roadway damage.
"They elected not to post a bond we required," he said. "All they're doing is putting the sensors out" in Kent.
The geophone sensors are attached to cabling that stretches for miles. Some of the geophones were visible on Gougler Avenue and in downtown Kent near the courthouse this past week.
Zimmerman said Precision Geophysical is contracted by oil and gas firms to conduct the seismic testing and obtain the shale formation data.
"We should be picking up our cables out of Kent by the end of the weekend and Brimfield the next couple of days after the weekend," he said.
No new oil or gas permits have been issued in Kent or Franklin Township since 2007, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Anthony Zumbo, a planning and design engineer at the Portage County Engineer’s Office, said the county obtains a $500,000 one-year bond to allow use of the vibe trucks on county roads.
“Thus far, from the activity that we’ve had, we haven’t experienced any problems with any roadways they’ve used so far," Zumbo said.
Precision Geophysical is the second firm to come through Kent seeking seismic data.
Roberts said the first firm, which moved through the area in June, skipped over Kent entirely.
He suspects Precision's data for Kent may not be as accurate because the vibe trucks are not being used and instead the firm is relying on vibrations created by passing traffic to create images of the rock formations.
"If somebody’s worried about a well being drilled tomorrow, I can’t confirm yes or no," Roberts said. "They still have to get the right of the property owner to drill it."