While opponents of high-pressure hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — ponder their next move in the wake of overwhelming legislative support for the procedure, a Colorado-based energy company plans to begin drilling an exploratory well near Xenia later this month.
David Hettlich of Denver-based Strata-X said Tuesday his company has received a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to begin drilling the Burkett 5-34HOR well west of Xenia.
Meanwhile, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) said in a news release its members were "horrified" that Senate Bill 1715 passed. The group added SB 1715 was a product of political expediency rather than scientific study.
"The resulting bill is woefully inadequate to protect Illinois residents from the known harms horizontal fracking has brought to residents across America," the group said.
Strata-X's Hettlich said the IDNR permit issued Tuesday doesn't allow fracking, or any other procedure beyond drilling.
"It's not a permit to complete the well," Hettlich said, adding that several months of testing will take place before the company determines the best way to proceed. It's possible, he said, that the company will opt against fracking the Xenia well.
Hettlich said a rig from Les Wilson Inc. in Carmi will be used to drill a 4,500-foot deep vertical shaft to the Devonian Lingle formation, rock that underlies the hydrocarbon-rich New Albany Shale formation. Once the well is drilled, workers will extract a core from 60 feet of the rock for testing.
The IDNR permit also allows Strata-X to drill a 4,300-foot long horizontal leg after coring.
Senate Bill 1715 passed overwhelmingly in both the Illinois House and Senate last week, paving the way for what proponents call the strictest fracking regulations in the United States. Hettlich said those regulations — which include regulating where fracking can take place, disclosure of some toxic chemicals used in the process, and mandating water quality testing in the vicinity of fracking sites — do not deter the company's desire to begin drilling in downstate Illinois.