Oil, gas industry having impact

STEUBENVILLE – Area residents were updated Wednesday on how the oil and gas industry has impacted Jefferson County.

The public forum, held at Eastern Gateway Community College and hosted by the GO Jefferson County gas and oil committee, featured presentations by industry professionals as well as committee members and public officials.

County Engineer Jim Branagan told the group the innovative road-use agreement they negotiated requires the oil and gas industry to do soil borings and other tests, then upgrade them beforehand to ensure the roads they’ll be using can handle the heavy rig traffic.

“By upgrading roads (first), we’re seeing very little damage,” he said, “and we’re getting improvements we never could have accomplished with our limited resources.”

Over the past two and a half years, he said the industry has spent more than $9 million on road upgrades in Jefferson County.

“That’s the kind of benefit we’re actually seeing,” he said. “I’m very pleased about that. (It could have been) a disaster and it’s actually been a real benefit.”

Energy In Depth-Ohio’s Shawn Bennett said a total of 789 Utica shale drilling permits had been issued – 36 of them in Jefferson County. By comparison, permits were issued for 300 wells in Carroll County and 115 in Harrison County, 80 in Columbiana County, 51 in Noble, 40 in Belmont and 38 in Guernsey.

Meanwhile, he said 387 wells have been developed and 109 are in production. He said 30 rigs are operating in the Buckeye State.

“They’re still in the exploratory phase,” he said, “staking out areas, figuring out which are wet and which are dry.”

He said a lack of infrastructure – pipelines and processing plants – explains the lag time between wells developed and wells in production.

“Each well tells a different story,” Bennett said. “It tells you what area is going to work, it tells you what area is not going to work.”

Sullivan said Ohio is hosting some of the biggest names in the energy producing industry, including BP, XTO, Chevron and Chesapeake.

“Oil production is up 93 percent from 2011,” he noted, “and natural gas production is up more than 80 percent from 2011.”

Kevin Drake, general manager of U.S. operations for Global Microseismic Services, said seismic testing maximizes opportunities while minimizing risks.

“It helps pinpoint the ideal drilling locations,” he said.

“The images can be used to estimate probability of producing formations and their characteristics,” he said. “(It allows for) more accurate placement of drill sites, resulting in reduced environmental impacts, fewer dry holes and more productive wells.”

Greg Sullivan, area manager for MarkWest Energy Partners, said infrastructure in Jefferson County “is going to be pipelines to get the gas to market or to facilities like we’re building in Harrison County.”

“Pipeline infrastructure is critical to our progress and what we do in this industry,” he said.

Also providing updates were Mike McGlumphy of Ohio Means Jobs Jefferson County, Laurel McDowell of Manpower and Donna Hrezo, representing the Jefferson County Port Authority.