Hess Drilling By Warnock Cemetery

Those visiting deceased loved ones’ grave sites at Warnock Cemetery now see and hear Utica Shale natural gas development, as rig workers drill two wells thousands of feet into the earth at a site right next door.

After fracking wells across eastern Ohio, New York City-based Hess Corp. is drilling right in the heart of Belmont County along Ohio 149, directly adjacent to the cemetery on property in the name of Smith.

Mark Bruce is a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates the spacing and permitting for oil and gas drilling around the state. He said there are no specific requirements regarding how far a well should be drilled from a cemetery.

Department records show Hess intends to drill one of the wells next to the cemetery to a total depth of 9,809 feet, or about 1.85 miles.

The other one will go to a total vertical and horizontal trajectory of 18,670 feet, or about 3.5 miles.

In addition to the sight of the rig towering over the monuments, visitors are greeted with the constant noise of the drilling and fracking operation. However, the area in which Hess is drilling near the cemetery is not unaccustomed to mineral extraction, as surface coal mining was common there throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

Hess initially entered the eastern Ohio Utica Shale play in 2011 by paying $750 million to acquire rights from Marquette Exploration.

During the first three months of this year, Hess earned $446 million.

This profit was down from $669 million during the same period last year, but company officials attribute the decrease to exploration and production costs.

“Overall, we remain very enthusiastic about the prospects for our company in 2014 and beyond,” CEO John Hess said. Hess went on to add, “well results from the Utica Shale development are “encouraging.”