STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - The impact of gas and oil drilling in Jefferson County and the region was the topic of discussion during the Friday luncheon meeting of the city Rotary Club at the city YWCA.
Shawn Bennett, field director for Energy In Depth - the Ohio Project, said exploitation of the emerging gas and oil industry in Eastern Ohio would have economic benefits for surrounding counties and the state as a whole. Bennett also said the future looks bright, particularly for Utica shale drilling locally.
"We're now in a new chapter" (of oil and gas drilling), said Bennett. "It's very exciting.
"We want to make sure (drilling) is done correctly," Bennett continued, adding Ohio is learning from issues other states have faced with the emerging gas drilling industry.
Bennett also said to date 144 gas wells have been drilled in the surrounding counties, with 17 in Jefferson County. More than 204,000 jobs will be created in Ohio alone by 2015 in export and production, according to an industry study cited by Bennett.
"If we fall into these numbers then we're doing pretty well," said Bennett.
Oil drilling in Ohio began in 1814, and since then 275,744 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the state with 80,000 currently in production, Bennett said. Hydraulic fracturing has been used in the state for decades, he added.
"(Fracking) has been used in our state since 1953," said Bennett, adding the state is very familiar with the drilling process. "We have many wells (in Ohio) that have been producing for 80 to 100 years, which is amazing." Current gas drilling around Jefferson County will involve the Utica shale formation, which lies between 6,200 to 9,000 feet is Ohio, said Bennett. The shale has been known to exist since 1985, but the technology wasn't there to develop it until recently using horizontal/lateral multi-stage, hydraulic fracturing, which "reduces the environmental footprint from about 30 wells to one," Bennett said. "Here in Ohio we have very, very strict standards for (hydraulic casings used in the drilling process)."
Bennett said up to seven layers of concrete and steel are required for each casing to ensure no potable water is contaminated. Fracking solution is a combination of water, anti-bacterial and thickening agents as well as lubricants. The water is injected into the shale deposits to open fissures and force gas out, after which the gas is pumped to the surface, he said. Ohio law dictates baseline water testing must be done at all well sites, and drillers have to prove there's no surrounding water contamination. Agents used in fracking also must be made available for public viewing, Bennett said.
"We're only two years into this, and already $2.7 billion has been invested in (local drilling and related capital ventures)," Bennett said, adding the county has infrastructure needed for gas exploitation. "Jefferson County could become a hub for a lot of surrounding areas."
Bennett said the area won't hit drilling peak production for another 10 years, but, "You're going to see continued economic growth here."