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.
Photo by Casey Junkins
A drilling rig remains at the top of Kirkwood Heights in Belmont County. With natural gas wells and wastewater injection wells proliferating through East Ohio, the Marcellus Shale rush is taking a grip in the Buckeye State.
"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:
Information from the ODNR shows no completed wells for Harrison County to this point.