Mineral Rush Transforming Ohio

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Emerging forms of drilling for oil and natural gas have transformed much of the Midwest and Great Lakes region.(Photo: Arimoore (Flickr))
Emerging forms of drilling for oil and natural gas have transformed much of the Midwest and Great Lakes region.(Photo: Arimoore (Flickr))

An oil and natural gas economic boom is in the beginning stages in eastern Ohio. Energy companies are securing mineral leases from land owners in hopes of recovering natural gas and some oil from deep rock shale formations. Some landowners have some new found wealth, but the exploration of the so-called Marcellus and Utica shale could potentially bring widespread changes to some of Ohio’s poorest counties.

Noble County, 80 miles east of Columbus, is part of a region that sits atop the so-called Marcellus Shale formation. It holds oil and gas deposits, which industry analysts estimate could bring $14,000,000,000 in possible

investments to Ohio during the next four years. Noble county extension agent, Mike Lloyd says already some landowners receive big checks from oil and gas producers for the right to drill on their property. In one case, a landowner received $750,000.

Lloyd says recent oil and gas leases for property owners have sold for nearly $5,000 per acre, compared to about $100 per acre several years ago. Royalties from producing wells could generate millions of dollars in additional wealth for landowners.

Even though the anticipated energy boom is in its early stages, Ohio State University energy expert Allen Klaiber says other signs of an oil-and-gas boom are visible in areas where companies are preparing to drill. He says the first impacts are noticeable in service industries in places like Caldwell, and St. Clairsville.

“There are almost no vacancies at any hotels, restaurants are full,” Klaiber says.

And then the big equipment starts to move in…

“Construction gets increased, industry from building gravel roads to access the sites…”

Klaiber says after the leases are in place, drilling sites are selected and access roads are built, then some small businesses spring up or put temporary offices in the area.

“You get specialized industries that develop the chemicals needed for fracking that do transportation of water, transportation of other chemicals,” Klaiber says.

The Ohio Environmental Council has asked for a moratorium on the controversial “fracking” drilling technique in Ohio until environmental effects are better known. O.E.C. lawyer Trent Dougherty said earlier the group is especially concerned about possible hazardous chemical spills and possible groundwater contamination. So, the council wants…

“An Ohio-based study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing in the state. And then if the ducks are in a row then we can talk about opening that floodgate of oil and gas that the governor says is going to be a godsend for the state,” Dougherty says.

Allen Klaiber says if and when wells start producing in large quantities, new pipelines will be built to transport the product. Another industrial process is also needed that has the promise of thousands of jobs. Klaiber explains a plant is needed to chemically break down the fluid that comes from the wells into water and oil and gas components.

“And that’s called ‘cracking.’ And that can lead to, if they put a ‘cracking’ plant into this area it would have 30,000 or more jobs are the estimates right now.”

Reporter: “How many jobs?”

“30,000 or more for a ‘cracking’ plant. There’s probably going to be at least one that’s going to go in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia area. They haven’t figured out exactly where its going to go yet,” Klaiber says.

By comparison, the oil and gas industry says, last year, it employed fewer than 5,000 workers in Ohio.

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