Shale play still creating jobs, local investment
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Future job creation and a large investment in the economy are expected to stem from the natural gas boom in Eastern Ohio.
That was part of the message shared Thursday when more than 100 people gathered at Belmont College to learn about the status of the Utica Shale play in Ohio. The St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce worked with the Columbus-based Ohio Oil and Gas Association to coordinate the event, which also featured speakers from the Ohio Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute — Ohio, Ascent Resources and EQT Corp. Those industry insiders addressed a large crowd in the newly renovated Horizon Hall in a Lunch and Learn format.
Mike Chadsey, public relations director for OOGA, educated the audience on the history of oil and gas development in the Buckeye State. While the first successful drilling operation got underway in Pennsylvania in the mid-19th century, Chadsey said oil was first discovered in Ohio in 1814 in Noble County near present-day Caldwell. He added that during the “Rockefeller days,” referring to Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, Ohio was the world’s largest crude oil producer.
Today, natural gas is being pumped from wells in the same region where the first oil strike occurred, with nearly 3,000 wells permitted across the state. He provided the following figures regarding the number of permitted wells in local counties:
∫ Belmont — 585 wells
∫ Harrison — 423 wells
∫ Monroe — 413
∫ Jefferson — 194
Chadsey said that today, natural gas is being used for more electric power generation and that there is plenty of supply to meet current demand.
“We have a lot of gas left in the ground,” Chadsey added.
He also noted that the “Shale Crescent” region that includes portions of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania that lie atop the Marcellus and Utica shales is an ideal location for future petrochemical manufacturers. He said if those three states were to form their own nation, it would be the “third-largest natural gas producer in the world.”
Jimmy Stewart, Ohio Gas Association president, discussed the importance of transmission lines in the ongoing development of the industry. He pointed out that the supply side of the business is literally right in our own backyards.
“We are sort of the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” Stewart said.
But getting that plentiful gas to market still poses a challenge. He noted that getting the product from point A to point B as safely and efficiently as possible is a key to the future of the industry.
Stewart also pointed out that while gas production has grown substantially in recent years — largely because of the Marcellus and Utica shale plays — demand for electrical power in the United States remained virtually unchanged from 2000-2016. He said that although the nation has added 40 million people in that span, appliances and electronics have become more efficient and some heavy manufacturing operations that used large amounts of electricity have left the country.
Claire Linkhart of API — Ohio discussed the refining process as well as the marketing and distribution of natural gas and oil. She said Ohio has the sixth-largest refining capacity in the U.S. with four refineries in the state. Of those, the closest to the local area is the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery at Canton. It is fed, at least in part, by petroleum pulled from the ground in Harrison County.
In addition to having a large refining capacity, Ohio also is one of the top 10 states for consuming natural gas, Linkhart said.
In particular, Linkhart looks forward to more natural-gas fired power plants going online. Currently, there are four such plants operating in Ohio, and Linkhart said at least 11 more are slated to be built. She expects those plants to create 14,000 new jobs and to generate 10,000 megawatts of power. She said that is equivalent to $40 billion of natural gas purchases over a 30-year period.
Bradley Bodkin of EQT discussed his company’s recent purchase of Rice Energy, which had a large footprint in Eastern Ohio. He said EQT dates back to 1888 and is now the largest natural gas producer in the nation and now has a large investment in the local region. He added that safety is a No. 1 priority for EQT and believes in integrity, accountability, transparency, diversity and inclusion.
Amanda Finn, representing Ascent Resources, said the relatively new company created in 2013 is the largest gas producer in Ohio, has 140 local employees and uses local contractors 85 percent of the time. Ascent also emphasizes safety and integrity and works to support its partners in the community.
All the presenters said they were optimistic about the future of the industry and the local region.