The Belmont County Courthouse is packed with natural gas abstractors on a daily basis. Hotels and RV parks are filled with pipeliners and well drillers, and mineral owners are buying new vehicles with their bonus checks.
These are just some of the signs of how the oil and natural gas industries are changing the region.
And as the Utica Shale rush booms through Belmont County, the second annual Ohio Valley Regional Oil and Gas Expo is set for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 24 at the James E. Carnes Center, just west of St. Clairsville.
Photo by Casey Junkins
The Utica Shale RV Park, directly across Ohio 149 from Union Local High School in Morristown, is the temporary home of many oil and gas industry workers employed in eastern Ohio.
"Last year, the oil and natural gas drilling industry was new to Belmont County. Now that we've seen more of what the industry has to offer, we're also seeing significant growth in industry overall," said Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede. "The response last year was so overwhelmingly positive, and the event was greeted with such enthusiasm - there was no question that we would host another expo in 2013."
County Port Authority Director Larry Merry was thrilled with last year's response to the event, so he encourages local businesses to exhibit or attend.
"It was encouraging to walk through the event last year and see that not only did we have oil and gas companies meeting and generating business, but also banks, insurance companies, marketing firms and other companies exhibiting their services," Merry said.
Last year's event brought hundreds of people from all across the Marcellus and Utica shale regions. Many exhibitors already are signed up, including Force Inc., MPR Supply Chain, the Ohio Valley Oil and Gas Association, Thomas-Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, the Utica Shale RV Park, Wheeling Spring Service & Truck Parts and the Wheeling-Ohio County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Gulfport Energy Stuntzman well south of Barnesville is one of the reasons drillers are so active in Belmont County.
Based on initial production numbers and the going rates for oil and natural gas, West Virginia University Marshall Miller Professor of Energy Tim Carr said this well could be producing as much as $100,000 worth of revenue per day.
Gulfport also has the "monster" - as labeled by energy investment firm Global Hunter Securities - Shugert*** well that yielded as much as 28.5 million cubic feet of gas per day within the Egypt Valley area near Morristown.
Much of the high value for the gas underlying parts of Belmont County results from the fact that it contains wet ethane, propane, butane, pentane and oil - in addition to the dry methane gas.