By RICHARD SBERNA
Special to the Salem News
WELLSVILLE - Officials from Anchor Drilling Fluids USA, the largest independent supplier of drilling fluids in the U.S., hosted a grand opening at the company's new, $10.3 million facility in Wellsville on Friday.
Local dignitaries, including Wellsville Mayor Susan Haugh, Columbiana County Commissioner John Payne, and Jason Wilson, director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, were on hand to celebrate the latest addition to the area's expanding oil and natural gas production sector.
The 12,000 square-foot plant, located adjacent to the existing Cimbar Performance Minerals processing facility at Wellsville Intermodal Park, will produce synthetic oil-based drilling mud used in the horizontal drilling of hydraulic fracturing wells. The first permanent drilling fluids production operation in Ohio, it is expected to primarily serve the burgeoning gas and oil production in the local Utica and Marcellus shale regions.
Bob West, CEO of Anchor Drilling Fluids USA, said that the proximity of the site to Cimbar's facility was a critical factor in the decision to locate in Wellsville. Cimbar's Wellsville operation processes barite, a scarce mineral that is a critical ingredient in Anchor's synthetic drilling mud, making the site "the perfect place to put a liquid mud plant," according to West.
Columbiana County Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake, who engineered the negotiations that brought Anchor to the area, said he was very pleased. "This is a wonderful thing," he said. "Anytime you see progress, you see jobs created, you see the area moving forward based on entrepreneurship, it's wonderful."
In addition to the draw of Cimbar's existing operation, Drake said the transportation hub found in Wellsville was also a key factor, offering the company a choice of road, rail or river to bring materials in and ship finished product out.
The new plant, which has been online for three weeks, currently employs a core group of seven, according to plant manager Harold Willet. He expects an additional four or five to be hired in the near-term, but says that additional business could lead to as many as 20 people working at the plant. Also, the company will require on-site mud engineers to be present at all drilling operations using their product. "The busier we get, the more people we're going to put on," he said.
Wellsville Mayor Susan Haugh expressed her enthusiasm for additional jobs for village residents. "I'm extremely excited to have Anchor in Wellsville," she said, adding that her positive impressions of company management have only been strengthened since then. Haugh also lauded Drake in his leadership of the Port Authority, calling him "blessing to the area."