From the Columbus Dispatch:
By Spencer Hunt
and Kathy Lynn Gray
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
A Houston-based drilling company has suspended plans to drill for oil and gas in the shale beneath the Wilds animal preserve in Muskingum County, and quite possibly the rest of Ohio.
As Anadarko Petroleum revises its drilling plans, Ohio geologists have revised maps that show where the Utica shale might best be ’fracked.’ New maps suggest that the shale’s core area, or ’play’ - the Utica shale that’s likely to yield the most natural gas and oil - might extend farther west than previously thought. Anadarko still owns the rights to drill the Utica Shale beneath the 9,000-acre Wilds preserve, which is home to giraffes, rhinos and zebras. It can drill an additional 141,000 acres across eastern Ohio under a lease it signed in 2011 with Columbus-based American Electric Power.
Anadarko officials did not return calls yesterday.
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium board member John Matesich said that an Anadarko official told him last week that the company wouldn’t drill the Wilds ’at this time.’
The zoo, which operates the Wilds, located south of Zanesville near Cumberland, owns the surface rights there. AEP owns the mineral rights.
Zoo officials were ecstatic during a Wednesday board meeting when they heard that Anadarko had put its drilling plans on hold.
Tom Stewart, vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said that the company has stopped drilling activities in the state.
’The results that they’ve gotten from their initial wells do not meet their risk profile,’ Stewart said.
The Ohio Geological Survey’s newest Utica shale map still lists the area that includes the Wilds as ’good’ for oil and gas content.
The new maps extend the Utica play’s boundary west to Allen and Putnam counties. It also includes Athens and Meigs counties in southeastern Ohio. Both were left off last year’s map.
State and industry officials warned that the map does not definitively show rich supplies of oil and gas. They say they suspect that much of the western portion of the play isn’t under enough geologic pressure to push oil and gas out of wells.
The last map was controversial. The state’s chief geologist at the time, Larry Wickstrom, was demoted in May in part because of outrage over that map.
A review faulted Wickstrom, a 29-year state employee, for presenting the map at an Ohio Oil and Gas Association meeting before he showed it to officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the survey.
That map showed a potential oil reservoir in parts of Delaware, Marion and Union counties. Athens, Meigs and parts of Morgan and Washington counties in southeastern Ohio were no longer in the play. Most of Cuyahoga, Lake and Lorain counties in northeastern Ohio also were excluded.A copy of Wickstrom’s last performance stated, ’Numerous landowners across southern Ohio are concerned about how the map may be used to devalue potential future mineral rights leasing.’
Wickstrom left the agency in August, according to Bethany McCorkle, an agency spokeswoman.
Heather Cantino, an Athens resident and a board member of the advocacy group Athens County Fracking Action Network, said she doesn’t put a lot of value in the state’s shale maps.
’I know there is a lot of financial interest in maps to encourage investments,’ Cantino said. ’This may all be a shell game.’
Stewart said companies don’t know how much oil and gas is available in a region until they drill.
Anadarko has drilled eight wells in Ohio. Its last permit was approved in May.
AEP included the mineral rights to the Wilds in a 150,000-acre lease it signed with Anadarko. AEP was to receive $15 million from Anadarko over seven years.
Melissa McHenry, an AEP spokeswoman, said the lease is still in effect. ’We have not been notified by Anadarko about what their plans are,’ she said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.