WHEELING - Before city officials and Wheeling Park Commissioners collect royalties for the natural gas under Oglebay Park, Chesapeake Energy needs to complete its drilling pad on Timmy Minch's land.
Though Minch initially had reservations about Chesapeake placing its drilling pad on his property - notably because he lost about 12 acres of farm land in the process for the surface placement of the well - he said the the driller and its subcontractors have treated him fairly well since coming on site late last year.
"I thought it was going to be a disaster, but it hasn't been anywhere near as bad as what I thought," said Minch, a dairy farmer who maintains about 75 milk producing cows, along with some younger cows, at any one time. "They have been really responsible so far."
Photo by Casey Junkins
Timmy Minch, the property owner on whose land Chesapeake Energy is drilling the well that will extract natural gas from the Oglebay Park property, overlooks the drilling site next to his house on Browns Run Road.
Minch said multiple truck loads, as many as 100, transported items to the drilling site, just off of Browns Run Road in the area south of Oglebay. To reach the well site from Bethany Pike (W.Va. 88), one would take Warden Run Road to Boggs Hill Road.
Upon turning from Boggs Hill onto Browns Run, the well site lies just over the hill. One can also reach the site by traveling up Edgington Lane from National Road. Edgington Lane becomes Boggs Hill Road, which then leads to the site at Browns Run.
In late 2009, Wheeling City Council voted 6-1, with Councilman Robert "Herk" Henry opposing, to allow Chesapeake to draw gas from the Oglebay property. The Wheeling Park Commission - a separate political body tasked with overseeing Oglebay and Wheeling Park - and the city are set to evenly split 14 percent worth of production royalties for any gas produced from the Oglebay land. In early 2010, the commission and city each gained $386,629 in lease payments from Chesapeake as part of the drilling contract for the Oglebay land.
Chesapeake's original drilling plans called for the closure of the Oglebay Stables, with the company's drilling pad to be established nearby at a point between W.Va. 88 and GC&P Road. However, park commissioners objected to the project by questioning plans for water usage and transportation and the disposal of fracking fluid, among several other concerns. Chesapeake eventually established the Minch pad plan for gaining the Oglebay gas.
According to documents on file in the Ohio County Clerk's Office, Chesapeake's drilling pad for the Minch well consists of 543 acres pooled together from 27 separate leases held by the company in the Oglebay Park area. The majority of this acreage - 322.5 acres - is in the name of the Wheeling Park Commission and the city of Wheeling.
The natural gas trapped under Oglebay Park will then be accessed via horizontal drilling, a technique that allows drillers to access gas in a pooled unit from a central well site. That means no drilling equipment will be located on the surface of Oglebay Park's property.
Instead, that equipment is located on Minch's property. He owns his mineral rights, so he will get some royalties once Chesapeake is able to take the gas to market via the company's under construction pipeline network.
"I know some of the farmers don't own their mineral rights, so they are losing their farmland for nothing," he said, noting his lease is one of the 12.5 percent agreements Range Resources assigned to Chesapeake early last year. "At the time the lease was signed, nobody had any idea this thing was going to be this big."
Though he wishes he could have gotten a better deal for his land, Minch said Chesapeake and its subcontractors have been "good and responsible neighbors" to this point.
"Any complaint I have, they take care of it right away," he said. "I was a little concerned when they came in, but I have had very few gripes so far."
Minch said Chesapeake's subcontractors built a sound barrier around part of the drilling site to help keep the noise to a minimum, while also installing a rubber pad to keep any possible pollution out of the ground. The site is bright at night, Minch said, as the drilling is a full-time operation once it begins. He said workers told him they have already completed the vertical drilling portion of the well, noting they will return later to finish the horizontal legs that will reach the Oglebay land.
Chesapeake Senior Director of Corporate Development Stacey Brodak added, "Drilling activities have started on the Minch location. The timeline for completion and production has not yet been determined."
One fact Minch would like to see change is the number of out-of-state workers drilling on his land, noting he wishes more local people got a chance to work for the industry. He knows local community colleges are starting to offer training in such work, so he is hopeful for the future.
"I have two kids in school. I know this industry is here to stay, so maybe my kids will get a chance to work in it someday," he said. "I hope everyone benefits."