As the number of deep-well natural gas drilling sites continues to inch upward each month in the Mahoning Valley, energy companies also are raising their predictions for local success.
Halcon Resources, already drilling one well in Burghill, now is preparing a well pad for its second local well. There also are indications the company may be developing as many as five local wells soon.
Ohio Department of Environmental Resources spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans said this week that the permit application for Halcon's latest well on Brunstetter Road in Lordstown is among three pending with the agency.
Truck traffic to the Brunstetter site has been increasing steadily since the company inked a road use agreement last week with the Trumbull County Engineer's office. In addition, records show the company has made application with ODNR for two other drilling permits: the Hall permit on Highland Avenue in Lordstown and the Williams permit in Jackson Township, Mahoning County.
Trumbull County Engineer's official Don Barzak said his office also is working on another road use agreement for what could be the company's fifth planned well, this one on Hewitt-Gifford Road in Lordstown.
Houston-based Halcon began drilling early this month in Burghill and has said that process will take about a month. After that, the company will drill horizontally and then, if all goes as planned, frac the well.
A steady stream of trucks come and go Friday afternoon from the Kibler access road onto Brunstetter Road in Lordstown. Truck traffic has been increasing steadily to a site off Brunstetter where Houston-based Halcon Resources is developing a deep-well natural gas drilling operation. Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
These wells are Halcon's first anywhere in the Utica Shale, a rock formation thousands of feet below northeast Ohio which geologists believe could hold the world's largest single accumulation of natural gas.
Halcon spokesman Vince Bevacqua said this week that the company will contract two rigs for drilling in the Utica Shale.
While Halcon has not released any specific predictions for the Utica, other companies with local interests have expressed high expectations for the shale play.
BP's General Manager of global energy markets and U.S.Economics Mark Finley this week told the Tribune Chronicle the sharp increase in production that enabled the U.S. in 2009 to surpass Russia as the world's leading producer of natural gas came from shale production.
BP, which has leased mineral rights for more than 80,000 Trumbull County acres, has said it will drill 10 wells in the Utica beginning in April.
''Rising production of natural gas, oil and other fuels means that domestic energy production will be sufficient to meet 99 percent of U.S. energy consumption by 2030. That is compared to 70 percent in 2005,'' Finley said.
Still, Finley said the company does not worry about production outpacing demand.
In a company outlook report released last week, BP projected that by 2026 natural gas will replace oil as the leading source of energy consumption in the United States and that the country soon will become a net exporter of natural gas, subject to government permits.
''Consumers and producers alike respond to changing market circumstances, so that supply always equals demand (except for minor factors such as inventory changes),'' Finley said. ''Markets work: where they are given the opportunity to do so, energy consumers and producers respond to changing market signals. The U.S. has been at the forefront in developing new sources of energy supply because it has fostered a competitive marketplace that drives innovation. This holds the key for people interested in topics ranging from climate change to energy efficiency and renewable energy policies that bring market forces to bear and encourage innovation hold the best prospects for delivering tangible progress.''
Another big player in the local gas drilling process, Consol, last week told investors the company's first Portage County Utica Shale well as having ''good shows of gas and oil.''
The company also reported three Mahoning County wells were drilled last year, including the company's first "multi-well Utica Pad'' in North Jackson expected to be completed by June.
Consol, which is operating a joint natural gas drilling venture with Hess Corporation, said it expects to use its two horizontal drilling rigs to drill 11 wells in 2013. All are expected to be in Noble County, however, well south of the Mahoning Valley.