Guest Column written by State Representative Dorothy Pelanda.
With the newest geological maps showing lucrative shale beds in two-thirds of Ohio, there is an explosion of interest in what shale contains, how it can be safely extracted and what it represents to Ohio’s economy.
The discovery of shale is the newest chapter in Ohio’s 150 years of oil and gas drilling and production. It was relatively uneventful until the Morrow County oil boom of 1963. That boom prompted the legislature to enact the oil and gas laws in effect today. (Ohio Revised Code section 1509 gives the ODNR exclusive authority to regulate oil and gas productions.) There are over 10,000 oil and gas wells in Ohio known as “shallow” wells that tap the resources relatively near the surface.
The Marcellus shale, the largest shale deposit in the U.S., provides what is known as “dry” gas—which needs little preparation before use, and is also known as “pipeline ready”.
The Utica shale holds what is known as “wet gas”. “Wet” describes condensable or liquid compounds such as propane, ethane, and butane. Considerable additional revenue can result from the processing of these compounds. As a result, oil companies consider “wet” gas to be much more valuable—and the “wet” gas is concentrated primarily in Ohio.
Shale is a tightly-compacted rock that must be penetrated to permit the gas and minerals to be released. This gas is typically 6,000-9,000 feet below the surface.
The gas is released by the use of horizontal drilling and “fracking”. The typical acreage needed for horizontal drilling is 640 acres (which is why adjoining landowners form co-ops for drilling rights). The drilling is vertical down several thousand feet to the targeted shale, where the drilling begins to run horizontally up to 5,000 feet with six or more “legs” running from the vertical shaft into the shale deposits. The driller then “fracks” the shale by injecting water, sand, and chemicals into the well to create new channels, releasing the gas.
Fracking has been a standard industry practice since 1947. It is its combination with the horizontal drilling technique that has allowed drillers to unlock the shale potential. To date, there has been no evidence anywhere in the United States that fracking has contaminated the water table. Injection wells must be distinguished from disposal wells, which contain the disposed water and sand from the injection wells. One disposal well may contain the waste from several injection wells, and these products are often recycled.
The well in Mahoning County that is suspected to be connected to an earthquake is a disposal well. The Governor closed the well for further study, and the well remains closed. It is the opinion of many experts that the drilling there occurred in a “slip block fault” thus causing a geologic anomaly.
JobsOhio estimates that there has been over $1 billion in total lease deals to date benefiting Ohio landowners. It has also been reported that there are now more than 5,000 land scouts (“landmen”) in Ohio whose mission is to tie up as much of the estimated 5,000,000 drillable acres in Ohio, seeking leases in the shale play. These offers can be both numerous and confusing. Landowners and townships that are approached to sign Mineral Rights Leases or Secondary term leases are urged to consult with a lawyer who is an expert in leasing. Legislation is now pending to create uniform lease standards.
I am sponsoring a meeting in Marion, Ohio, on May 21, at 114 South Main Street Marion, Ohio 43302, regarding this topic, which is open to the public. At that meeting, Larry Wickstrom from ODNR will give a power point presentation. I have also invited Dale Arnold from the Ohio Farm Bureau to talk about farm leases.
State Representative Dorothy Liggett Pelanda is currently serving her first term as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives after being appointed to serve during the 129th General Assembly. She represents the 83rd House District, which includes Union and Logan counties, as well as most of Marion County.
You can find more information about and contact Pelanda by clicking here.