Eastern Ohio Sets Bar for Natural Gas Production
Ohio production up 43 percent in 2016
MOUNT PLEASANT — The sight of two active drilling rigs and multiple pipeline crews working along Ohio 647 northwest of Martins Ferry seems to fit with reports of the Buckeye State growing natural gas production from the Utica Shale by more than 43 percent in 2016.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources data show drillers and frackers pumped 1.37 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2016, a new record that shatters the previous year’s mark of 955.6 billion cubic feet. For a point of reference, 1 billion cubic feet is enough fuel to provide power to about 24,315 homes for one year.
Despite an overall slowdown in late 2016, the industry continues to grow, especially in the eastern portions of the Buckeye State.
“It’s great for Belmont County and Monroe County. You’re also starting to see more interest in Jefferson County,” Shawn Bennett, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said.
Bennett said the “over-pressured” condition of the natural gas in the shale in these counties allows the product to flow in such large quantities that drilling remains viable.
Companies working in the aforementioned counties, as well as Harrison County, include XTO Energy, which is a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., Rice Energy, Gulfport Energy, Antero Resources, Ascent Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Consol Energy, Eclipse Resources and Hess Corp.
Bennett said the farther west one goes in Ohio, the more likely he or she is to encounter the “wet gas,” which is rich in materials such as ethane, propane, butane and pentanes. Because prices for these substances remain relatively low, he said, the industry will likely continue to be heaviest in these eastern counties.
“It’s all based on prices. If the price is too high, everyone will start drilling, which will make the price drop because supply goes up,” Bennett said. “If the price is too low, no one will drill, which will make the price go up because supply goes down.”
Recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline, while the developer sued to use eminent domain to acquire the land to build the massive conduit that will stretch from Doddridge County, W.Va. to Michigan. Other interstate pipelines in some form of the approval and construction process include the $2 billion Nexus Pipeline, the $1.4 billion Leach XPress, the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise, the $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline and the $2 billion Mountaineer XPress.
“Any and all projects that help relieve the bottleneck in the Appalachian Basin are welcomed by the industry,” Bennett said of the area that include Ohio and West Virginia.
Industry leaders in both Ohio and West Virginia have maintained they need these infrastructure projects to make drilling more profitable. They do this by transporting their material to areas of higher demand, such as New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Despite the significant increase in natural gas production from 2015 to 2016, the Buckeye State yielded 22 percent less oil from year to year. In 2016, Ohio drillers pumped 17.95 million barrels of oil, down from more than 23 million in 2015.
“That’s definitely a reflection of oil prices,” Bennett said.