When Ohio Petroleum Council Executive Director Terry Fleming visited Trumbull County recently, he revealed some startling numbers.
Some geologists project a 20- to 60-year supply of oil and wet gas in the Utica Shale and a 200- to 300-year supply of natural gas. Those are far greater expectations than any previously mentioned.
Granted, as an industry representative Fleming has good reason to espouse an overly optimistic outlook or even to exaggerate. But here are some facts and figures that are certain:
Williams Partners and Caiman Energy announced a joint deal through which they will spend $800 million in pipelines and midstream processing somewhere in the Utica region, possibly Trumbull or Mahoning counties.
NiSource Inc. and Hilcorp Energy Co. announced a partnership through which they will invest $300 million to build pipelines and midstream processing somewhere in the Utica region, possibly Trumbull or Mahoning counties.
Ohio will be part of the 1,230-mile Appalachia-to-Texas Enterprise Pipeline that will transport ethane from the Utica and Marcellus shales to the Gulf Coast petrochemical market where it will be used to produce consumer plastics.
This is on top of billions of dollars already invested or soon to be invested in Eastern Ohio, from pipemaker IPSCO in Brookfield to Pioneer Pipe near Marietta. More than a billion is being spent in the Mahoning Valley already.
Critics of the natural gas boom often point out the impending ''bust'' that could occur once the drilling stops. The work force needed to maintain producing wells is scant compared to the labor needed to dig wells in the first place.
Local business and government leaders - the Regional Chamber, Western Reserve Port Authority, Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., the Mahoning River Corridor Initiative and county commissioners among them - are working to prevent the bust. That's prevented by having midstream processors - companies that convert the gas into forms used by manufacturers, especially in the plastics industry - and plastic makers locate near their raw materials.
Though a plan exists to construct pipelines to industrial sites in Trumbull County where midstream processors and plastics manufacturers can cluster, there is competition. Columbus 2020, a partnership among universities, industries and local governments, is actively trying to lure companies to build gas and oil pipelines and factories in central Ohio. State Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, hosted a regional tour where the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority and Marietta College's Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology are part of the push to attract pipeline construction and factories there. Other parts of Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania are also competing.
While our region is positioning itself to avoid any bust, there are still ramifications associated with the boom that may not have yet been addressed. Housing should be at or near the top of the list. As drilling industry workers pour into the Valley rent will increase and local families will get displaced. According to Fleming, energy companies in other parts of Ohio funded affordable housing for the displaced locals. Local organizations should get prepared to handle this problem that could surface as early has next year.
Perhaps it's time for another high profile campaign, similar to how the Mahoning Valley rallied to save the General Motors Lordstown plant and later the Youngstown Air Reserve Station. Maybe because they have been disappointed by so many past hopes - a defense finance center and dirigible factory come to mind - many local people have yet to grasp the magnitude of potentially being the center of the world's energy sources.
A high profile campaign could serve to energize everyone, and that sound could echo throughout the manufacturing world.