COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Injection drilling in Ohio hasn't met the initial expectations of state officials this year, due to lower natural gas prices and a backlog in the work needed to connect the wells to customers.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials had told state legislators in March that as many as 250 of the natural-gas and oil wells would be drilled in eastern Ohio's Utica shale by the end of the year. But state records show that only 165 wells have been completed, with 22 more being drilled.
Despite the delays, state officials said shale drilling by the hydraulic-fracturing, of fracking, process is alive and well in Ohio.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
A crew at a gas drilling site on property owned by Ormet Corp. near Hannibal works to clean sections of pipe that will be inserted into the well shaft being drilled by a rig at the site.
"We're having new companies that continue to come in, and permitting remains steady," said Heidi Hetzel-Evans, a Natural Resources Department spokeswoman.
Natural Resources Director James Zehringer told a state Senate committee in March that 250 wells would be drilled by the end of this year. A timeline in his written testimony also predicted 750 new shale wells by the end of 2013 and 2,250 wells by the end of 2015.
Hetzel-Evans said the agency based its drilling projections on shale activity in Pennsylvania, where state records show that more than 5,600 shale wells have been drilled since January 2009.
Shale wells in Pennsylvania and other states have produced so much natural gas, propane and ethane that prices have dropped significantly.
The drilling that has occurred has had an impact in eastern Ohio, especially in Carroll County, which has more wells - 73 - than anywhere else in the state. Paul Feezel, leader of the advocacy group Carroll Concerned Citizens, said it's hard to imagine how drilling could get busier.
"It's a beehive of activity," Feezel said.