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Ohio Utica Shale

Devon Energy abandons disappointing Medina, Ashland wells; seven other wells also plugged

By Bob Downing Published: January 1, 2013

A great deal of attention is directed at successful Utica shale wells in eastern Ohio, but there’s another side to the story.

A total of nine wells, including three in the Akron-Canton area, have been plugged — a sign of failure — by drilling companies over the past two years.

It is proof that energy companies face big risks in drilling, industry officials said.

Locally, the plugged wells include a Devon Energy Corp. site in Medina County’s Harrisville Township and two Chesapeake Energy wells: one in Portage County’s Suffield Township and one in Stark County’s Paris Township.

Under state rules, plugged wells are abandoned permanently and are sealed with concrete. Their status shows up on a weekly report on drilling permits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Devon Energy also plugged a well in Ashland County.

The company, without offering specifics, reported this summer that preliminary results from the Medina and Ashland wells were disappointing. Officials said they would shift attention to the natural gas liquids-rich area in eastern Ohio counties.

The Oklahoma-based company is also drilling in Knox, Coshocton, Holmes and Guernsey counties. Such wells can cost between $5 million and $10 million each.

Poor production appeared to be the reason the two Devon wells were scrapped, said Heidi Hetzel-Evans of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management.

State personnel report that the other seven plugged wells appear to be mostly cases of "lost holes," she said, calling it "the most common reason that wells get abandoned at this stage in Ohio drilling."

A "lost hole" is the industry term for drilling that is halted because of technical problems that cannot be corrected, state spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said.

An example, she said, would be if the drill bit broke off and could not be recovered.

In such a case, the well would be properly abandoned and the company would be forced to start over again on drilling, McCorkle said.

"This is very costly and does not happen that often," she said of abandoning and plugging wells.

Dan Alfaro of Energy in Depth-Ohio, a pro-drilling group, likened a lost well to a Ford Motor Co. assembly line that stops production and moves to a new site because of a problem. Such lost wells can be created by "myriad’ reasons, he said.

"There are no guarantees in drilling wells," Alfaro said.

In addition to the Portage and Stark wells, Chesapeake also plugged a well in Carroll County’s Center Township.

"Chesapeake has not permanently plugged any producing Utica shale wells," spokesman Pete Kenworthy said. "The wells in question were plugged very early in the drilling process so a new hole could be drilled."

The other wells that have been plugged are two wells by West Virginia-based HG Energy LLC in Monroe County and two wells by Colorado-based Antero Resources in Noble County.

Those nine wells represent a fraction of what’s happening in 21 counties in eastern Ohio.

To date, the state has approved 485 Utica shale permits. A total of 196 horizontal wells have been drilled and hydraulically fractured, or fracked. A total of 45 wells are producing natural gas, oil and the natural gas liquids ethane, butane and propane.



See the most recent drilling report and an injection wells map From
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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

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.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

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.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.