CNBC and NBC News on Thursday used cross-network programming to train their cameras on the resurgence in Ohio, once the heart of the U.S. steel industry, which has been reborn in part from the growth in the auto industry, as well as drilling operations in the Utica Shale.
CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who hosts “Mad Money,” spent the day at Timken’s Faircrest Steel Plant in Canton, OH, and was to dedicate his evening shows to the region’s drilling frenzy. CNBC’s Phil LeBeau reported from Youngstown, OH.
“We keep hearing that things aren’t so hot in this country, but I keep coming back with examples of where things are roasting,” Cramer said Thursday. The Utica Shale is “in the midst of an area of Ohio that hasn’t seen growth in decades. Decades. Yet the stores are packed; I can’t get a hotel room, and there are trucks all over the place.
“Why? Because of the oil rush and the billion dollars that Chesapeake Energy has pumped into this area in the last two years. There isn’t a free hotel room for miles. The area is so behind at keeping up with the growth it is amazing.” Chesapeake is the leading leaseholder in the Utica, with about one million acres.
Cramer said he climbed on a Chesapeake rig and was “astonished at what goes into them. Eaton, Emerson motors, Caterpillar engines, Parker-Hannifin compressors, Cooper monitors, Eaton and Rockwell Automation controls, and, of course, National Oilwell Varco technology…The payback on these rigs is almost instant, and we are in the first inning of a manufacturing renaissance that is going to supply equipment here in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Louisiana and Wyoming. All on private lands. The public land stuff is just debate material,” he said, referring to the presidential debates.
“There is weakness” in the economy, Cramer admitted. “I am staring down the barrel of the IBM gun, so I know it. There are tons of weak quarters coming. Tech’s very tough. The industrials are spotty. But with autos on the rise, home purchases going north, and oil and gas doing terrifically, I can’t buy the negativity that is still all around me.”
A study published in June by IHS Global Insight said unconventional gas production in the top 10 states by 2015 would produce 1.46 million jobs, compared with 1.01 in 2010 (see Shale Daily, June 14). By 2035, more than 2.438 million jobs are expected to be added. Ohio’s jobs numbers are expected to jump by about 10,000 in 2015 to 41,366, and nearly double to 81,349 in 2035.
Youngstown, said LeBeau, is “trying to capitalize” on horizontal drilling, which uses hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to stimulate production. The Youngstown City Council on Wednesday voted 5-2 for an ordinance that may allow the city to lease land for drilling (see related story).
Revenue from leasing city land to drillers could help Youngstown erase a nearly $5 million budget shortfall and some of the money could be used for revitalization projects, Mayor Chuck Sammarone told LeBeau. The oil and gas boom is “just like when the steel mills came here.”
The “City of Youngstown…has more abandoned homes…than they can afford to tear down,” LeBeau said. “The city is looking to cash in by looking to fracking for natural gas.” Cities are struggling with tight budgets and are looking at mineral rights as “a windfall of millions of dollars trapped under public lands,” which “is tempting capital to their cash crunch.” For instance, to remove one abandoned house costs Youngstown between $7,000 and $8,000 — money the city doesn’t have.
Sammarone “is frustrated” because “he sees a city in decline desperately in need of money to tear down abandoned buildings,” said LeBeau. Youngstown needs to tear down about 1,100 abandoned buildings, which would cost an estimated $4 million, according to the city.
Asked if he was worried about some of the alleged problems associated with fracking, Sammarone said, “I guarantee you, we will organize under the First Amendment everybody in here and bring the wrath of God into this [city council] chamber and [give] power back to the people.”
Other cities, the mayor said, are selling their mineral rights to add revenue, including Scio, OH, which is in Harrison County, an emerging drilling area. The new funds from leaseholds help to “pay for new sidewalks, a water treatment plant and perhaps give the town a shot in the arm..This is something that could help the area not only now, but 10, 20, 50 years from now, just like when the steel mills came here.”
There are have been mixed reports on the extent of the Utica’s riches. Earlier this month the U.S. Geological Survey reported that the shale play holds an estimated 38 Tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas, or less than half that of the Marcellus Shale (see Shale Daily, Oct. 5). An estimated 940 million bbl of unconventional oil resources and 9 million bbl of natural gas liquids also are trapped in Utica rock, said scientists.
For producers, there are plenty of resources to be uncovered in Ohio. BP plc, which secured its first leasehold in Trumbull County earlier this year, is interested in building its portfolio, CEO Bob Dudley said in late July (see Shale Daily, Aug. 1). The first well is expected in April.
Ohio explorers have only begun to develop leaseholds, but the region already is seeing benefits, according to the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. “Initially we projected $1.4 billion of investment in the Utica by the end of 2012,” but that number was way off, said Executive Director Rhonda Reda. “The actual investment is about $3.4 billion.”
Earlier this month LS Power said it would build a $750 million natural gas-fired power plant in Ohio’s North Beaver Township because of the abundant resources in the region. The plant is expected to be operational by early 2017. Close to 500 temporary construction jobs would be created as soon as next year, and the plant once operational would require 25 full-time positions.
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