Rigs operating in Shale Play stand at 41

There are 41 drilling rigs operating in the Utica/Point Pleasant Shale Play as of the week ending April 5, the last reporting period by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The cumulative report shows 1,202 horizontal wells have been permitted and 810 have been drilled.

In Columbiana County, 101 wells have been permitted, drilled, are drilling or are in the production stage.

Hanover Township leads the county with 25 well and Franklin township is second with 22 wells and many of those in both townships are producing.

The rest of the permit activity breakdown shows Salem Township has nine wells; Elkrun Township with seven wells; Center Township with six; Butler, Middleton and Unity townships with five each; Washington and West townships have four each; Fairfield and Knox townships have three each; Madison Township has two and Wayne Township has one.

There are a total of 16 wells in production in the county while 42 are drilled or being drilled, leaving 42 wells still in the permit stage.

The gas and oil rights operators include Atlas Noble with three wells, Hilcorp Energy with two, SWEPI with one and the remaining 95 are operated by Chesapeake Exploration LLC.

A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.” That was according to the Associated Press.

The ODNR imposed an indefinite drilling moratorium at the site of the March quakes. The state allowed oil and gas extraction to continue at five existing wells at the site but on Friday it issued new permit conditions in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.

Under new permit conditions, all new drilling sites within three miles of a known fault or seismic activity of 2.0 magnitude or higher will be conditioned on the installation of sensitive seismic-monitoring equipment.

Results will be directly available to regulators, Simmers said, so the state isn’t reliant on drilling operators providing the data voluntarily.

If seismic activity of 1.0 magnitude or greater is felt, drilling will be paused for evaluation and if a connection is made, the operation will be halted.

“While we can never be 100 percent sure that drilling activities are connected to a seismic event, caution dictates that we take these new steps to protect human health, safety and the environment,” said James Zehringer, director of the ODNR.