Chesapeake Opens Its Fox Commerce Offices

Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy extracts hundreds of barrels of oil and millions of cubic feet of natural gas in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle each day.

And the driller now has a field office open in Ohio at Fox Commerce Park, just west of St. Clairsville, a facility that Sue Douglass believes could soon be home to many workers.

“We anticipate there being over 100 employees going in and out of there,” said Douglass, Belmont County Community Improvement Corp. and Department of Development director. “They have told us they want to hire local people, but they always direct people to their website for hiring.”

Pete Kenworthy, spokesman for Chesapeake’s operations in Ohio, confirmed the company moved into its new St. Clairsville office on April 11. He did not provide any additional information.

The driller that leads West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle in natural gas activity is also becoming a major player in the Buckeye State.

This is because of the valuable ethane, butane, propane and pentane found in the Utica Shale underlying much of eastern Ohio. According to its recent 2012 earnings statement, Chesapeake holds about 1 million net acres in Ohio.

To this point, the company has drilled 184 wells in the Utica, 45 of which are now producing.

The company still has $1.15 billion to spend for drilling and fracking in the Utica region. Chesapeake shows Ohio oil production to the north, as one Carroll County well produced 525 barrels of oil daily, the earnings statement shows.

Chesapeake paid Belmont County $300,000 for roughly 30 acres of land at Fox Commerce. Because the buildings are located at the front of the industrial park – across from the FedEx structure at Fox Commerce – they are visible from Interstate 70.

Just down the street from the St. Clairsville Chesapeake office is the new location for Great Plains Oilfield Rental, a Chesapeake affiliate.

This company provides drilling mud, pipe and fracking tanks to support Chesapeake’s operations in the Upper Ohio Valley. Its previous field office was located in Buckhannon, W.Va.

Chesapeake announced plans last year to shift much of the company’s focus from drilling in the methane-dominated dry gas regions in much of Pennsylvania and central West Virginia to drilling in the wet gas of northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio. This is due to relatively low natural gas prices compared to the price commanded by natural gas liquids, such as ethane, propane and butane, in addition to oil.

“Currently, there is a great deal of focus on developing the highest-return, liquids-rich shale plays such as West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle, and this new location assists in facilitating this objective,” Jerry Banta, northeast region manager for Great Plains, recently said in describing the reasons Great Plains is moving to St. Clairsville. “In order to be competitive and maintain continuity, we must be located in close proximity to the activity in the play.”