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Fracking Operations Drawing Closer To Columbus
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Until recently, oil and gas hydraulic fracturing in Ohio shale deposits is taking place in the eastern part of the state. Now, a few oil and gas companies are moving their fracking operations west, closer to Columbus to look for potential riches.
The latest well is being drilled in an area less than an hour from Columbus.
Public records at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources show the shift in drilling activity in Ohio.
“We’re starting to see leasing activity come into Central Ohio,” said ODNR spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans.
Hetzel-Evans explains that revised geological maps of Ohio indicate oil and gas rich shale stretches further west than originally thought.
“Knox county for sure Morrow, and Marion headed into western Ohio,” Hetzel-Evans said.
On farmland, near the Licking County, Knox County border is a new exploratory well. Devon Energy of Oklahoma City is drilling down nearly 4-thousand feet.
The company hopes it hits natural gas and oil in what’s known as the Utica shale. Access to the well site is restricted. Workers and supply vendors have to check in with a Knox County sheriff deputy at the entrance to the well field.
In Utica, Lanny White says he’s only heard of the new drilling activity and seen it from a distance.
“I heard that, yes, my first reaction is what are they doing in this area?” White asked.
Evidently they think there might be some oil deep underground here.
“Well, uh, Good luck with that, I guess,” White said. “Well, I mean, I don’t like anybody from out of town coming around here. If anybody reaps the benefits I’d hope it would be somebody local.”
At the Duke-Duchess gas station at Routes 62 and 13, Utica construction worker Allen Keegan waits each morning for a ride to his jobsite outside Columbus. He’s noticed a change since shale drilling began.
“I’ve seen more people coming in to get gas for work in the morning. I think it will bring more people in. Hopefully, the people we’ve got here they’ll give them jobs first instead of bringing a bunch of people from out of town in,” Keegan said.
It’s too early to tell whether the gently rolling landscapes around Utica, Mount Vernon, and Johnstown will yield sufficient amounts of oil and gas to attract major development of the shale fields deep below. ODNR’s Hetzel-Evans said Devon and other companies are still exploring the potential resource.
“We actually have only had about a dozen wells come into production in the Utica shale area. That said we’ve had over 200 wells drilled. Many of those wells may not go beyond exploration,” Hetzel-Evans said.
But, Hetzel-Evans anticipates more drilling, especially in areas that skirt the northernmost Columbus suburbs. She explains that locating oil and gas deposits thousands of feet below ground is an inexact science.
“Geology is not constant. You can cross the street and the geology thousands of feet below the surface will have changed dramatically,” Hetzel said.
As drilling activities move closer to urban populations, Hetzel-Evans said companies face stricter standards to protect underground and surface drinking water supplies.
Devon Energy has a clause in its well permit to abandon the Knox County site if the well proves unproductive. Current ODNR records show no exploratory wells in Morrow, Marion, or other counties surrounding Columbus. But, the geologic map now shows potential oil and shale gas deposits as far west as the Franklin-Madison county line.