Oil, gas future looks bright for county

STEUBENVILLE — A panel of oil and gas officials predicted Wednesday that Jefferson County will see a growing interest in the energy industry in the coming months.

The quarterly workshop series hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and the Jefferson County Port Authority at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church’s Hellenic Hall saw several energy industry experts discuss the state of oil and gas drilling as well as pipeline projects and a brighter future for natural gas rigs in the county.

“After today the mood in Jefferson County should be one of things are looking up. And with the PTT Global cracker plant planned for Belmont County, the downstream effect on this county will be definitely important,” said Mike Chadsey, director of public relations for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

“There are currently 114 permits in Jefferson County. We haven’t been here a lot lately because of the general slowdown. Right now Carroll County is No. 1 in Eastern Ohio, and Belmont County is second. Jefferson County is eight out of the 10 top counties, but we are seeing signs of an uptick in the local area. Harrison County is also a county to watch,” explained Chadsey.

“We are continually behind Pennsylvania, but the interest in the natural gas in Eastern Ohio never really stopped here. It slowed down, but it continued. If we burn the natural gas locally we can turn it into other projects and use it as feed stock for other products and goods. We can also sell it to gas-powered power plants,” continued Chadsey.

“Our competition is Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. But there is a definite advantage for us in the market place,” noted Chadsey.

Amanda Finn of Ascent Resources said her company is focused on the Appalachian basin of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“Right now we are operating six rigs in Jefferson and Belmont counties but will drop to five rigs at the end of summer. We have three fracking crews who will be working in Jefferson and Belmont counties this year. Jefferson County had been on the back burner until the last couple of months. Now Cross Creek, Warren, Smithfield, Wayne and Mount Pleasant townships will be seeing some activity,” said Finn.

According to Matt Shepherd, senior director of governmental affairs for Chesapeake Energy, “our focus will be on Jefferson and Carroll counties. We will be more active in Jefferson County than we were before.”

And Jimmy Stewart, president of the Ohio Gas Association, said natural gas prices in the United States are lower than the rest of the world.

“Natural gas is used by industries, residential, commercial and electric power plants. Coal may rebound or not, but there will always be a place for it,” said Stewart.

“All of this brings it back to what we do best in Jefferson County and that is making things. This is about what it means for our future and future generations. Everything starts at the wellhead. We currently have a free market system in our industry and it is working quite well,” stated Jackie Stewart, state director of Energy Indepth Ohio.

“What is happening in Ohio is a win economically. And none of this is possible without horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. There is a lot of misinformation out there about fracking. There is an incredible amount of misinformation about the industry,” she concluded.

“Local businesses should get ready. With the coming interest in drilling and the pipeline we better be prepared for the potential business,” advised Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tricia Maple-Damewood.

“We organized the oil and gas panel today as part of our quarterly workshop series. It has been a long time since anyone from the oil and gas industry came in for an update report. I think a lot of good stuff has already happened,” Maple-Damewood noted.

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