Ohio Readies For Gas Drilling Rush

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – From touring drilling rigs to attending seminars, Jason Wilson said he is learning as much as he can about what Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas means for Ohio.

“The economies around us are benefiting from drilling. You see it in Pennsylvania, it’s real; you see it in West Virginia, it’s real. Now it’s here, and we have to grasp the opportunity,” said state Sen. Wilson, D-Columbiana. “I think this is the biggest opportunity for job growth for eastern Ohio we have seen in a generation.”

With many new Marcellus and Utica wells on the way for eastern Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shows several shafts already have reached the deep rock formations.

“It is moving quickly,” said Wilson, noting he believes the ODNR and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are well equipped to regulate the industry and to strike a balance between safety and development.

“This is really an enormous opportunity for us,” said Wilson, who represents Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison and Columbiana counties. “I know we could be looking at a few thousand wells being drilled over the next several years – that creates a lot of work and economic activity.

“This is a chance to really put people back to work,” he added.

The David Hill well on Kirkwood Heights is the second Belmont County well to strike the Utica Shale, which is deeper in the ground than the Marcellus formation. Last year, Consol Energy Inc. struck the Utica formation at a well near Barnesville.

At a depth of roughly 15,000 feet so far, according to Wilson, the Kirkwood Heights project is the deepest gas well in Ohio history. This shatters the previous record depth of 11,442 feet for a Noble County well drilled in 1967.

The property owner, St. Clairsville-based Georgetown Marine Inc., is set to gain 12.5 percent of production royalties if gas flows from the Kirkwood site. Georgetown representatives have directed all questions regarding the matter to Hill.

Hill could not be reached for comment for this story. However, he previously confirmed that, although the Kirkwood Heights well could be used to produce gas, the shaft could also serve as an underground injection well. An injection well is used to store the briny drilling wastewater used at other drilling sites.

Some – notably Belmont County Township Association President Greg Bizzarri – have expressed concern with drilling waste being injected into the eastern Ohio soil, as Bizzarri recently said, “It seems like, basically, Ohio is a dumping ground.”

Wilson is not so concerned though, noting injection wells are cased in cement before anything flows through them – and they reach depths far below any drinking water wells.

“This is ‘dinosaur water’ they are sending back into the earth,” Wilson said. “This should not interfere with anybody’s drinking water.”

Gas Wells Reaching

the Marcellus Shale

Formation in East Ohio

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the following gas wells have already reached the Marcellus Shale formation in East Ohio:

Belmont County

  • On property in the name of Marcum, west of Powhatan Point – by Phillips Exploration Inc.
  • On property in the name of Cowen, west of Bellaire and Bridgeport – by Equity Oil and Gas Funds.
  • On property in the name of Gulley, west of Shadyside, near Jacobsburg – by Phillips Exploration Inc.
  • On property in the name of Pollock, south of St. Clairsville, near Warnock – by Marquette Exploration.
  • On property in the name of Boan, west of Powhatan Point – by Phillips Exploration.
  • On property in the name of Capstone Holding Co., east of Flushing – by Marquette Exploration.

Jefferson County

  • On property in the name of North American Coal in the area of New Alexandria and Fernwood State Forest – by Marquette Exploration.
  • On property in the name of Curti, near Mingo Junction – by Range Resources Corp.
  • On property in the name of North American Coal in the area of New Alexandria and Fernwood State Forest – by Marquette Exploration.
  • On property in the name of DeNoon near Edison High School in Richmond – by Eric Petroleum.
  • On property in the name of North American Coal in the area of Bloomingdale and Fernwood State Forest – by Marquette Exploration.

Monroe County

  • On property in the name of Bradfield in Ohio Township – by Virco Inc.
  • On property in the name of McIntire in Ohio Township – by Virco Inc.
  • On property in the name of Cisler, west of Fly, Ohio – by Beck Energy Corp.
  • On property in the name of Early, west of Fly, Ohio – by Beck Energy Corp.
  • On property owned by Ormet Corp. across Ohio 7 from the Hannibal Reduction Plant – by Virco Inc.

Information from the ODNR shows no completed wells for Harrison County to this point.