By BRENDA J. LINERT
NORTH JACKSON, Ohio - The limited pipeline infrastructure of Trumbull County and northeast Ohio will quickly outpace the development expected in the natural gas and oil industry, BP officials said recently.
Some existing pipelines can be accessed, but the energy giant, which plans to begin drilling 10 experimental wells by April in Trumbull County, is spending time determining what is necessary for the long term.
"We would have to look to expand the existing infrastructure in order to manage the product," said BP's Ohio Operations Manager Joe Uppercue.
"Significant infrastructure is going to be required to bring the initial products to market," echoed Bruce Abbuhl, BP Ohio Project Manager. "The limited infrastructure will quickly outpace the development."
Infrastructure isn't the only development proposed by BP and other oil producers tapping into the mineral reserves of Ohio's Utica Shale.
Energy company partnerships with midstream processing plants are being explored for Trumbull County, and already are planned and under construction in Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
The possibility for construction of such a plant in Trumbull County is very real, the BP officials said Monday, but noted any talk is extremely preliminary.
"There could be," Abbuhl said. "It's too early for us to say. We are talking to a number of midstream companies."
For now, Abbuhl and Uppercue were focusing on the appraisal stage of drilling in the Utica Shale. That will include exploratory drilling to analyze things like thickness and quality of the shale.
Leases for more than 84,000 acres of mineral rights in Trumbull County, signed with BP in March, carry five-year primary terms. That gives the company time to explore the area and move forward with plans. By next year, the officials said they expect to have invested $100 million in Trumbull County drilling.
Drilling the initial wells have been a slow process for BP largely because this is that company's first work in the Marcellus and Utica Shale areas, so developing relationships with contractors and suppliers have taken time.
New leases still are being negotiated, and relationships with contractors are still being sought.
"BP is working really hard to use local providers for whatever services we need," Abbuhl said.
"We are just happy to be here."
Contractors interested in offering services can get more information on BP's web site, Uppercue said.
"We are just happy to be here. This is a milestone," Abbuhl said.
They are so pleased, in fact, that the company has leased 5,000 square-feet of office and warehouse space here that will be used as the company's Ohio base.