PIEDMONT, Ohio - A popular fishing spot in Belmont and Harrison counties soon could turn into a popular drilling spot, as the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District has plans to lease 6,600 acres at Piedmont Lake.
A meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the James E. Carnes Center west of St. Clairsville to discuss a potential lease deal. With per-acre leases in Belmont County currently going for $7,500 per acre, the conservancy district could stand to net close to $50 million just for its leasing rights before a single well is drilled.
The district plans to have staff members on hand to answer questions and collect input.
Photo by Casey Junkins
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District plans to lease nearly 6,600 acres of property at Piedmont Lake for Utica Shale natural gas drilling.
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Along with Piedmont, the conservancy district manages several large eastern Ohio lakes, including Tappan Lake, Clendening Lake and Seneca Lake.
Just more than a year ago, Global Hunter Securities - an investment bank focused on energy - named Gulfport Energy's Shugert well in northwestern Belmont County a "monster" while it was pumping 28.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day during its testing phase. While the Shugert remains productive for Gulfport, the company's Stutzman well near Barnesville recently yielded about 1.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas over an 89-day time frame.
To the north in Harrison County, Gulfport's Boy Scout well pumped 41,617 barrels of oil during 70 days of production. Ohio Department of Natural Resources records show the Boy Scout well located very close to Clendening Lake.
According to the district, officials have already signed lease agreements for drilling at Clendening Lake in Harrison County, Leesville Lake in Carroll County and Seneca Lake in Guernsey and Noble counties.
District officials said many companies have been contacting them about leasing in the Piedmont area. Traveling to the lake area, one finds drilling sites operated by Hess and Gulfport along the way north from Interstate 70.
District officials maintain they want to sign a "non-development" lease with a gas company, which would confine the driller's operations to areas where they would not have a significant impact on those using the lake, or the wildlife contained within. This could include the "possible prohibition of well pads and production lines" to be built on the surface of the Piedmont property.
In horizontal shale drilling and fracking, companies drill thousands of feet vertically into the earth before turning the drill bit to bore horizontally through the shale. The advanced drilling technique needs to be followed by fracking, which calls for companies to blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the earth at high pressure to release the gas and oil contained within the shale.
Not every frack job requires the same solution of chemicals, so not all substances will be used for every well. Some commonly use fracking chemicals include hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol, isopropanol, glutaraldehyde, petroleum distillate, guar gum, formamide, citric acid, potassium chloride and sodium or potassium carbonate.
Despite concerns by environmentalists that fracking may contaminate groundwater supplies, there are no confirmed cases of this in the Upper Ohio Valley. However, drilling and fracking brings increased truck traffic to the area, as well as possible air pollution.
District leaders said they plan to negotiate their lease agreement in as transparent a manner as possible. The district also will post any lease that is agreed to for a large reservoir area on the district's website for a few weeks prior to any recommended approval by the organization's board of directors.
Officials pledge to use the revenue generated from the lease agreements to "pay down its debt and to plan for and begin making upgrades to its public recreational facilities."
According to its website, the district is a political subdivision of Ohio organized in 1933 to reduce flooding in the Muskingum River Watershed, as well as to conserve water for public use.