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Ohio Utica Shale

Drilling is having population impacts on Great Plains

By Bob Downing Published: March 14, 2013

By Bob Downing

and Rick Armon

Beacon Journal staff writers

Ohio’s fledgling oil and gas industry has spawned a frenzy of investment and drilling in the state, but it hasn’t resulted in any significant population growth in the shale region.

At least not yet.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported today that communities in Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming and Kansas are seeing an influx of new residents, thanks largely to the growing oil and gas industry there.

The Eagle Ford, Permian and Barnett shales in Texas and the Bakken shale in North Dakota are fueling population growth in drilling areas across the Great Plains, the Census Bureau said.

That population growth could be coming to Ohio in the future, given the drilling industry’s focus on the state’s Utica shale in eastern Ohio.

The Great Plains, all the way from Canada to West Texas, had seen a flood of people leaving that region but that’s changing, the census says.

"There are probably many factors fueling this growth on the prairie, but no doubt the energy boom is playing a role," said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s senior adviser.

The Permian Basin, mostly in West Texas, and North Dakota’s Bakken shale accounted for almost half of the total U.S. growth in firms that mine or extract oil and gas, he said.

Midland, Texas, was the fastest-growing metro area from July 2011 to July 2012, with its population increasing 4.6 percent. Nearby Odessa, Texas, ranked fifth overall and Austin-Round Rock, Texas, was seventh.

Bismarck, N.D., Manhattan, Kan., and Cheyenne and Casper, Wyo., were among the 20 fastest-growing metro areas.

Williston, N.D., was the fastest-growing small town with a 9.3 percent population growth. Its population grew by 2,281 people.

Future growth in Ohio?

It is possible that Ohio could see such population growth in the future, said Chris Zeigler, executive director of the Ohio Petroleum Council.

Right now, the drilling industry in Ohio is "in its infancy," he said. The industry has created about 38,000 jobs, to date, and that number is expected to grow to 140,000 by 2020, he said.

Zeigler said it is hoped that many of those jobs will go to Ohioans, but those jobs will make Ohio an attractive place for job hunters.

Those jobs, he added, will create "a real opportunity for people to come to Ohio for drilling and related jobs. … The Utica shale has real potential and I see it, like many others do, as a game-changer."

Ohio’s oil and gas region is centered in Carroll County, which saw its population decline 1 percent over the same time period, according to the new census estimates. Other counties in Ohio where drilling is under way also saw slight declines.

Meanwhile, the Canton-Massillon metro area, which encompasses Carroll and Stark counties, saw its population climb by 291 people or 0.1 percent.

Drilling region

Ohio’s 21-county drilling region saw its population decline by 4,921 people from July 2011 to July 2012 and drop by 9,680 people since the 2010 census.

Overall, about 2 million people live in Ohio’s drilling areas.

To date, a total of 567 permits have been approved in the Utica shale in 21 Ohio counties by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Of that total, 268 wells have been drilled, of which 76 wells are in production.

A total of 35 drilling rigs are working in Ohio where 4 million acres have been leased by drilling companies.

The number of Ohio wells in full production is expected to grow sharply in 2013 as pipelines and gas processing plants worth in excess of $7 billion are completed in eastern Ohio.

The census data show little population growth in Pennsylvania from the Marcellus shale. The drilling there began in 2007.

Key drilling areas like Bradford and Susquehanna counties showed slight population drops from 2011 to 2012, while Washington County showed slight population increases. The community of Williamsport in north-central Pennsylvania grew by 490 people, a 0.4 percent increase, from 2011 to 2012.

Ohio metro numbers

The Canton-Massillon area was one of three metro areas in Ohio to post positive one-year growth. The others were Columbus, which expanded 1 percent, and Cincinnati, which grew 0.3 percent.

The population in the Akron metro area, which encompasses Summit and Portage counties, declined 0.1 percent or 592 people.

The Toledo metro area fell by the same percentage, and Dayton was flat. The Cleveland-Elyria metro area declined 0.2 percent, or 4,862 people.

Despite losing 416 people, Summit County remained the fourth-largest county in the state with 540,811 residents.

Among the top 10 counties, only Franklin, Hamilton, Stark and Butler saw growth.

Cuyahoga County lost 4,872 residents — the most in the state.

Franklin County had the biggest net gain in the state with 16,273 new residents, followed Delaware County with 2,444.

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or



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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.