City Getting Into the Shale Game

More than $470,000 worth of Utica Shale natural gas drilling lease money is headed to the All-American Town, thanks to the contract Bellaire Village Council signed with Gulfport Energy this week.

The terms of the contract match those of the one the Shadyside Local School District inked with Gulfport in December. It will pay Bellaire $7,250 per acre for each of the approximately 66 acres leased, as well as 20 percent of production royalties for any gas produced from the village’s mineral tracts.

“We wanted to act before the price went down,” said Councilman Jerry Fisher. “Every little bit helps in these financial times.”

Fisher and Village Solicitor Joseph Vavra said the leased acreage is scattered throughout the town among multiple lots, rather than as one large block. Vavra said the overall dollar amounts fit with the going rates in Belmont County.

“There are provisions protecting the village from having a gas well right in the middle of town,” Vavra said.

In horizontal drilling and fracking, companies such as Gulfport typically would place rigs and other equipment on the surface outside the village to access the gas.

Many eastern Ohio residents who originally signed leases with Wishgard LLC or Tri-Star Energy have seen those contracts turned over to Gulfport, while Gulfport has also signed many county landowners to their own leases. This year, Gulfport plans to use as much as $634 million to drill as many as 95 new Utica Shale wells.

Along with drillers such as Rice Energy, Antero Resources, American Energy Partners and Hess Corp., Gulfport continues fracking productive wells throughout Belmont County. Gulfport’s Irons 1-4 H well along Ohio 148 near Armstrong Mills is yielding about 30 million cubic feet of dry methane natural gas per day. Therefore, Vavra knows the initial $470,000 payment for the village’s 66 acres could be just the beginning.