Local Gas and Oil Drilling Numbers On Rise This Year

Photo by Casey Junkins Oil and Gas Safety Supply Assistant Manager Megan Norman and Manager April McCort say sales at the store, which opened amid the Marcellus and Utica shale boom in 2012, are up by 50 percent compared to last year.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Sales of boots, hard hats and gloves to those working in the shale industry are up more than 50 percent this year compared to 2016, according to employees at Oil & Gas Safety Supply in St. Clairsville.

This increase in business coincides with the number of active drilling rigs for both Ohio and West Virginia being double that of this time last year. Oilfield services giant Baker Hughes counts 28 active rigs for Ohio, compared to 14 a year ago, while there are now 14 working in West Virginia, up from just seven this time in 2016.

Also, Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President Shawn Bennett said companies working in the Buckeye State have spent about $50 billion to drill, frack, install pipelines, build processing and fractionation plants, and conduct other work since 2011.

“Things are really looking up at this point,” Bennett said. “Those who weathered the storm are benefiting.”

One of those businesses is Oil and Gas Safety Supply, which opened on National Road in St. Clairsville in 2012. Today, the shop employes eight people, while providing pipelines, drillers, frackers, truck drivers and other industry workers a convenient location to pick up new gear.

“I would say, up at least 50 percent from last year,” store Manager April McCort said of her store’s sales while stocking shelves last week. “Things are really good right now. We survived the storm.”

As the natural gas industry recovers from a relatively sluggish period, industry leaders from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania will meet for the 2017 Shale Insight conference, set for Sept. 27-28 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

“Last year and the year before, we were really struggling. We are seeing more drilling as the price of natural gas continues to rise,” Bennett said.

Bennett said part of the reason for the industry’s optimism is the continued progress with several large pipeline projects to transport natural gas from the region. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently approved the $2 billion Nexus Pipeline, while the $4.3 billion Rover Pipeline is also progressing. Other major pipeline projects in some form of permitting or construction are the $5.1 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise, the $1.4 billion Leach XPress, the $3.5 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline and the $2 billion Mountaineer XPress.

Bennett said much of the conference this year will focus on the Royal Dutch Shell ethane cracker, which is now progressing in Beaver County, Pa. He said industry leaders remain optimistic about the potential PTT Global Chemical ethane cracker for Belmont County.

In the oil and natural gas industry, “upstream” refers to drilling and fracking; “midstream” involves pipelines, processing plants and compressor stations; and “downstream” refers to an end-user, such as an ethane cracker.

“We’re really going to be focusing on downstream opportunities, with a lot of emphasis on the Shell ethane cracker,” Bennett said. “The idea is to create a manufacturing renaissance in this region.”

A Guernsey County native, Bennett said watching Southeast Ohio’s economy grow from the shale rush gives him some satisfaction.

“This is letting us pry out the nails of the coffin they said this region was in,” he said.