LISBON - With 80,000 hydraulic fracturing wells in Ohio, Tom Stewart, a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry talked about the Utica shale currently being drilled in Columbiana County and the history of oil and gas production throughout the state.
Stewart, the executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said his grandfather was in the oil production business. He talked about production from the 1880s forward and the difference hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has meant to the latest boom in Ohio.
"Nowhere in the world is there more sophisticated drilling equipment than in Appalachia," Stewart said, "except when you are looking at offshore drilling."
After the second Ohio boom in 1950s, it became apparent there needed to be oil and gas drilling regulations in Ohio, Stewart said. Drilling fields were placed right next to each other, poorly utilizing resources.
According to Stewart, Ohio's current regulations have been reviewed three times and in 2010 were already considered some of the best by a group which includes environmentalists and people in the industry.
Stewart indicated there is a difference between environmentalists, who care about obtaining the natural resources safely, and those in the anti-development crowd, who do not want to see hydraulic fracturing at all.
Recently, Stewart said, he was approached by a woman protesting in Columbus, who was unable to express her concerns about drilling without bursting into tears. He likened her concerns and those of others in the anti-development crowd as more of a religion instead of something based on facts.
When drillers adjust for the geology, Stewart said drilling risks are managed. While places like New York which forbid drilling, will have to run pipelines to get affordable natural gas, the reduction of prices in Ohio will mean more money in people's pockets, according to Stewart. He sees a 60 percent decrease in natural gas costs. The industry is also producing jobs for those involved in drilling, utilizing the other bi-products of natural gas drilling and moving natural gas through interstate pipelines.
The Utica shale is not the only drilling going on throughout the country. It is not the deepest shale fields being drilled compared to other states, Stewart said. Drilling in Ohio has ranged from 50 feet to 9,000 feet. The Utica drilling is between 7,000 and 9,000.
Stewart predicts by 2020 the U.S. will produce more fuel oils than Saudi Arabia, "which means the king of Saudi Arabia needs to look into tent-making again."
Despite counties south of Columbiana County are actually seeing more productive wells, the whole industry is changing the landscape of Ohio and politics worldwide, he maintained.
Stewart also talked about some of the recent concerns about whether increases of earthquakes are being caused by fracking. Some of the increase, he said, is due to the better detection equipment, which picks up seismic activity at lower ranges. In Mahoning County, he noted one injection well was being used on a fault line, which may have caused an issue that can be avoided with careful well placement in the future.
"The industry does not want to make people's homes shake," Stewart said.
Stewart was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Columbiana County Economic Development Update event at the Jobs and Family Services building. The event was sponsored by the Columbiana County Area Chambers of Commerce, which consists of six local chambers throughout the county.