Although an agreement was reached Monday between BP and a local group of Trumbull County landowners, development of the acreage and drilling activity will take some time.
''For about the next six months, we will be meeting with these individual landowners, understanding the legal documents they have, what land they own, and confirming that,'' Daren Beaudo, BP spokesman, said Tuesday. ''Then we will begin to appraise what we have, look more at more in-depth seismic testing, maybe drilling a well or two.''
BP announced the agreement with the Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley (ALOV) to lease thousands of acres in Trumbull County for future oil and gas production in the Utica / Point Pleasant shale formation.
The deal is projected to bring more than $300 million into Trumbull County in the initial payout, expected no later than October.
According to people familiar with the local negotiations, BP will be paying $3,900 per acre for mineral rights, or about $327 million in total. After that, landowners will receive 17.5 percent royalties on the minerals. The lease begins April 1, and landowners will sign the official contracts the week of April 16.
The five-year contract gives BP an option to renew for three additional years.
''It's about 84,000 acres and it's all in Trumbull County in northeastern Ohio,'' Beaudo said. ''We see it as a new and promising basin. It's important to BP and important to Ohio.''
Beaudo said negotiations took three to four months to hammer out.
BP's involvement in energy investment in the United States has been strong the past several years and could mean a boost in the local economy.
''BP is excited to expand our presence in Ohio in a way that will create jobs, bolster the local economy and provide additional sources of energy from an important emerging American resource,'' said Lamar McKay, chairman and president of BP America.
''We're the sixth-largest natural gas producer in the United States,'' Beaudo said. ''Our capital investments in the United States from 2007 to 2011 are $52 billion.''
The continued growth of BP involvement in natural gas and the outlook for the Utica shale has the energy company excited.
''We are very encouraged by what we have seen of the Utica / Point Pleasant formation. Our focus in 2012 will be to better understand the geology and devise a plan to safely develop the resource,'' said Tim Harrington, regional president for BP's North America Gas.
The investment for BP is a long-term one, Beaudo said.
''Shale developments in big important areas tend to be very long-legged. It's not a short term and it takes a while,'' he said. ''If you do have a development program, which we expect to, it takes a while to drill the number of wells and to put in that type of infrastructure. These are projects that take many years and this is part of the country that could use an economic boost.''
The energy company also said it has not finalized plans for a local base of operations.
''We have a culture of wanting to become a fabric of the community. That's what people see about BP when we're developing in a particular area,'' Beaudo said. ''We'll have some sort of an officer there to interact with lease holders, but without knowing what the development looks like it is hard to say what type of support office there will be.''