Paul Peirce, Tribune-Review
Law enforcement agencies in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties are investigating the theft of more than a dozen seismic monitoring devices, valued at about $20,000, from a Canadian energy exploration company.
“We’ve only been operating in the area since April 30 and are missing 15 seismic recording field units,” said Ian Haslam, regional site manager for Tesla Exploration Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta.
The small devices consist of a metal ground probe, a battery and a hard drive, according to Trooper Evan R. Terek of the Greensburg station.
The monitoring probes were removed from several locations in Hempfield, North Huntingdon and Sewickley townships in Westmoreland County and Elizabeth Township in Allegheny, Haslam said.
Nine units have been pilfered from various locations along busy Route 30 and Bucktown Road in Hempfield and from Route 136 and McGrew Hill Road in Sewickley Township, according to Terek. One was stolen from North Huntingdon and two in Elizabeth.
The theft of three other devices in the Belle Vernon area were reported to state police there, Haslam said.
The devices are used to help the company detect possible pockets of natural gas in the Marcellus shale. Seismic surveys delineate characteristics below the earth’s surface and identify potential well sites.
The devices record underground sound waves that are sometimes created by “thumper trucks,” which use large weights to shake the ground, or by a small amount of explosives set off underground.
The company has reported the thefts to the Greensburg and Belle Vernon state police stations and the North Huntingdon and Elizabeth police departments.
“We really don’t know what happened. It could be kids playing around who see them placed along the roads and just throw them in the woods,” Haslam said. “It could be people taking the items for scrap, although the scrap value would be of very little value. Or it could be nearby landowners that don’t want the devices near their properties and they pull them out.
“We’ve had experiences of people pulling them out of the ground and decide to store them in a shed or something just because they don’t know what they are,” he said.
Haslam said the devices “really have no other material use” beyond seismic monitoring.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.