Welcome to Ohio Utica Shale, an Akron Beacon Journal and Ohio.com blog.
Everyone is talking about the blackish Utica shale that lies thousands of feet under the eastern half of Ohio and the major economic boost it could provide in the coming years.
Ohio is on the verge of an oil and natural gas rush, following in the wake of Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale boom that got under way in 2008.
The Utica shale is described as a liquid-rich field with oil and wet gases: butane, propane and ethane.
Ohio officials estimate that the Utica shale could produce 15.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5.5 billion barrels of propane, ethane and butane, if only 5 percent is recovered via drilling. Oil will also be recovered. That's worth tens of billions of dollars and is enough to fuel Ohio for more than 20 years.
Energy companies came to Ohio starting in 2009 and started leasing large tracts of land. At first, the interest was in gas trapped in the shallower Marcellus shale under the eastern fringe of the state. Later, interest switched to the deeper Utica shale that lies in bands up to 300 feet thick more than 6,000 feet below ground.
Landowners have signed thousands of leases and now the first Utica shale drilling is getting under way in eastern Ohio.
Carroll County is the drilling epicenter in Ohio, but there is drilling activity in Portage, Stark and Medina counties. Permits have been approved in 18 Ohio counties and the play is spreading from east to west.
Chesapeake Energy Corp., based in Oklahoma, is the big player. It has invested $2 billion to lease 1.5 million acres in Ohio. It says its Ohio holdings could produce $20 billion. It has nine drilling rigs in Ohio and more will be here soon. It has indicated its first three Ohio wells are very lucrative. Other companies are also involved.
Each well with a 13-story derrick costs about $6 million and multiple wells will be constructed at each site.
State officials are optimistic that a Utica drilling boom will create jobs and boost Ohio's economy.
Job creation estimates range from 20,000 by Ohio State University to 200,000 by an industry group.
Supply industries are gearing up for the boom.
But not everyone is happy with what's happening in Ohio.
The use of horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing or fracking has come under fire from some who are concerned about the threat to ground water and vapors escaping to the air.
Fracking requires large volumes of water, sand and toxic chemicals pumped under pressure into horizontal wells to free up gas trapped in the rock.
The concern is not over the fracking itself that takes place thousands of feet below ground. The worries revolve around the proper handling and disposal of fracking liquid, a portion of which is removed from the well before production begins.
In Ohio, that salty brine musty be injected below ground via injection wells.
The threat of spills, leaks, construction errors, mistakes and acts of God involving that liquid are a threat, critics say.
The liquid is laced with heavy metals, toxic chemicals and low-level radiation from the rock.
Some are worried about where the fresh water will come that is needed for the fracking.
Air pollution from fracking vapors, increased truck traffic, pumps and compressors is also a concern. Some worry about health concerns from the drilling.
New York, Maryland and New Jersey all have moratoriums in place against fracking.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying fracking. Initial results are expected in late 2012 and a final report is likely in 2014.
The industry says fracking is safe and has been widely used for decades.
Ohio officials insist that the state is prepared to handle a Utica shale boom, although skeptics have doubts.
According to most accounts, the Utica shale could produce for up to 40 years, although it may start to slip after 20 years. No one knows for sure.
There is already talk of tapping into a deeper shale in Ohio: the Lower Huron.
Veteran Beacon Journal reporters Bob Downing and Jim Mackinnon have been covering the Utica shale boom in Ohio and will be the primary reporters filing posts to the blog.
Our goal is to keep a close eye on what's happening in Ohio with links to stories in the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com and reports from other media.
We are also posting a list of Web sites that will provide more information on both sides in the fracking debate.
We want to keep you informed about what's happening with Ohio's Utica shale. Please join us to follow that shale development. Feel free to post your comments. Let us know how we are doing.
- Bob Downing and Jim Mackinnon
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.