new report from Ohio's top geologist appears to show that Athens County is
outside the area that will get the greatest attention from companies wanting to
exploit Ohio's Utica shale for oil and gas resources.
could have major ramifications in Athens County, where the potential
oil-and-gas boom (and the use of the controversial horizontal hydraulic
fracturing process to obtain the resources) has been the top news story for the
of local property owners, with more than 100,000 acres of mineral
rights, have agreed to lease those rights to energy companies for oil and gas
landowners stand to make millions of dollars if signing bonuses are paid for
the leases. If the wells are drilled and begin producing, then royalty
checks based on gross production will follow for landowners.
line with this blizzard of leasing activity, the potential oil-and-gas boom has
become a major environmental issue in Athens County, with many residents
strongly opposed to fracking. They've cited the experience of other communities
where hydraulic fracturing has allegedly ruined water supplies and disrupted
rural lifestyles with heavy traffic and industrial activity.
all this interest, many local residents and officials have assumed that the oil
and gas companies had good reason to feel confident in the resources underlying
the county. It's been known that the carbon-rich Utica-Point Pleasant interval
underlies the county, as it does much of east and central Ohio, and some experts predicted that oil would be the main
target for drillers here.
always been a question, though, whether our underlying carbon resources are of sufficient quality (in thickness, age, pressure and/or organic composition), to have much value.
report, "Geology and Activity Update of the Ohio Utica-Point Pleasant Play,"
prepared by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Geological Survey,
includes several maps, based on historical core samplings or cuttings, that show Athens
County well outside the "core productive area" for total organic carbon and
other telling measurements of the source rock's potential to generate
each case, according to maps in the ODNR Geological Survey report, core
samplings or cuttings closest to Athens County show underwhelming grades on the four main
measurements of source-rock potential for oil and gas development. The
samplings were apparently taken by oil companies whose geo-physicists then
Wickstrom, chief of the Geological Survey division and state geologist,
co-authored the Utica update report and presented it to the annual meeting of
the Ohio Oil and Gas Association this past week in Columbus.
The NEWS was unsuccessful in
contacting Wickstrom on Wednesday about the report, though a local resident who
attended the OOGA meeting said Wickstrom told the group that the areas
delineated on the carbon resource maps – which don't include Athens County –
are where the Utica-Point Pleasant play most likely will happen in Ohio.
oil and gas expert at Marietta College, however, on Wednesday cautioned not to
"abandon the ship" just yet on the oil and gas potential in our area. "My
feeling all along is that the most southeastern part of Ohio is on the marginal
end, at best, of the Utica-Point Pleasant shale play," said Robert Chase, chair
and professor in Marietta College's Department of Petroleum Engineering and
Geology. "However, until someone gets bold enough to drill something in the
area, I don't think we can conclude there's nothing here."
also pointed out that the maps in the state Geological Survey's presentation
suggest the conclusions are based on spotty information for this part of
southeast Ohio, with only one core sampling point in all of Athens and
Washington counties. That sample, he said, has a total organic content of 1.9
percent, "which puts it in the good range, so there may be potential."
that data point is in central-eastern Washington County, and most of the maps
show the oil and gas potential of the Utica shale petering out as it moves
westward through Athens County.
Chase, though, suggested that the activity to the north may create such high demand that it could spill over into our area. “The closer they get to your area in terms of what gets leased up, the more likely the late arrivals to the dance will be stepping out into areas currently thought out of play,” he said.
Another source, who asked not to be identified, said that he's seen maps that potential oil and gas investors are being shown, and they suggest Athens County is well within the "window" for oil and gas development.
the latest report will affect the millions of dollars of unpaid oil and gas
leases in Athens County, as well as the over-arching environmental debate, is
it's probably safe to say that this ODRN geology update is good news to a lot
of people in Athens County, and bad news to a lot of others.
report can be found at http://ohiodnr.com/?TabId=23014
the three main links under the page introduction, it's the third on the list.