Several groups of Ohio landowners looking to lease thousands of acres in the Utica Shale believe their prospects are getting brighter now that the elections are over, with oil and natural gas producers beginning to staff up their operations.
Earlier this month Southern Ohio Energy Consultants LLC (SOEC) said it was still looking to sign leases for five landowner groups that it represents in the southeast part of the state that own a combined 95,000 acres. That acreage, according to the firm, lies in the rich condensate and oil phases of the Utica in Athens, Meigs, Muskingum and Perry counties.
Ann Sowers, group leader for the Southern Athens County Landowners Association, told NGI that interest in her group's 45,000 acres in Athens and Meigs is on the rise, thanks to the election ending and production from a wildcat well targeting the Utica, the JB Hayes 317-V, drilled by R. Wolfe Oil & Gas LLC in Athens' Rome Township. "I've figured that they were waiting on the results of the election," Sowers said of the oil and gas companies. "There were a lot of people calling me, asking me for [SOEC] phone numbers. You could tell just by talking to them that they weren't landowners; they were someone more important.
"So I know there is interest in us. I'm in the mindset that it's going to come faster now that we know what the results are from that well. They were dragging their feet, waiting for this well to be done and to see who was going to be sitting in the White House for the next four years."
Greater Perry County Landowner Association board member Bob Stamper, whose group is represented by SOEC, said oil and gas companies were on the move. He cited a decision by Knox Energy Inc. to purchase a natural gas transfer line and right-of-way in Monday Creek Township, which is in the southwest corner of Perry County. Meanwhile, most of his group's landowners, which own 6,000-7,000 acres, are in the process of renewing their commitment with SOEC, which expired on Oct. 31 but was renewed for another year.
The other three landowners groups SOEC represents are the Cutler Landowner Association, the Lowell Landowner Association and the Wolf Creek Landowner Association. Acreage controlled by the three groups lies in Morgan and Washington counties, which are to the immediate east of Athens and Perry.
"Everything has to finish moving through Washington County and Morgan County first," Stamper told NGI. "Morgan is just now starting to see the activity. Of course, the activity in our recorder's office has picked up too, and there's some big names coming into the area and talking to people. But we haven't seen significant leases. And there have been some wells drilled in Perry County, but they are exploratory."
SOEC said the 95,000 acres available for lease is offset to production from Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Antero Resources in Noble County. In July the firm signed a deal for landowners in northern Washington County with PDC Energy Inc. (see NGI, Aug. 27).
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