West Virginia seeks bids to drill for natural gas under Ohio River

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is seeking bids for natural gas drilling on state-owned land under the Ohio River.

A legal notice published last week in the (Wheeling) Intelligencer seeks bids from energy companies to drill under the river in Marshall, Wetzel and Pleasants counties in an attempt to collect gas trapped in the Marcellus and Utica shales. The state’s DNR wants to award exclusive rights and privilege to lease the state’s oil and gas beneath the Ohio River. The deadline to submit bids is Sept. 11.

Potential drillers likely would reach the minerals by horizontal drilling, setting up their rigs about a mile from the river. Contractors are able to drill more than a mile deep before turning the bit horizontally to reach the oil and natural gas beneath the river.

Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said state officials need to consider how many people depend on the Ohio River for drinking water, but said he understands the bores would be “well under” the bottom of the riverbed.

“Would something be leaked into the river ? It is always a concern because it is a water source for so many people,” Gamble said. “I could see what people would be concerned about with this.”

Eureka Hunter, a division of Magnum Hunter, already has a pipeline running under the river. The pipeline connects Utica Shale production operations in Ohio to the MarkWest Energy processing plant at Mobley.

In West Virginia, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Oil and Gas is the agency charged with overseeing permitting for natural gas and oil wells within the state. The DEP is a cabinet-level position in West Virginia.