The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

October 30, 2011

Buried deep beneath Ashtabula County

Large deposits of Utica shale may help area economic picture

Buried deep beneath Ashtabula County, a layer ofUtica shale is expected to be the catalyst that changes the lives of many residents for years to come.

With Southern Ohio already profiting from oil and gas extracted from the shale, according to many industry and area leaders, local political leaders are trying to stay ahead of the curve. To do so, they are working with legislators, agencies and officials from the southern part of the state where Utica shale is already being drilled.
Ashtabula County Engineer Tim Martin has been working with engineers from other counties to ensure infrastructure issues; especially the protection of roads, are addressed when companies begin drilling.
“I think it is going to be good for the area,” Martin said of the drilling.
The drilling process, fracking, is a relatively new method of horizontal mining. Drilling is first done vertically, to a depth of roughly 7,000 feet where the shale sits; the drilling then turns horizontal. Natural fissures containing natural gas in the shale are further enlarged by this horizontal drilling, and by the water and chemicals which are pumped through the pipeline at high pressure. When the water/chemical mixture is pumped back to the surface, the natural gas released from the shale follows it back up to the wellhead.
The procedure has been used for several years in West Virginia and Pennsylvania; however, there are some serious concerns with the drilling method.
There have been incidents of groundwater contamination so detailed regulation is important, Paskey said. 
Questions over potential environmental damage to area land is a concern but Ohio has an advantage Pennsylvania did not, said Nathan Paskey, district manager of the Ashtabula County Soil and Water District.
“We (Ohio) have some pretty good rules (laid out by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources) on oil and gas exploration,” he said. Paskey said if companies abide by the rules the process is safe but if they cut corners there can be problems. 

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