Utica wells produce 95 percent of natural gas used by Ohioans

By BOB DOWNING Published: December 28, 2015

From Jim Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in a release today:

Ohio’s Utica shale play continues to grow

Oil and natural gas production in Ohio continues to expand, reaching unprecedented amounts in 2015. At ODNR, our job is to ensure that this growth and development is done safely, keeping in mind that the communities in Ohio’s Utica shale play are relying on us to protect their residents, land and water. We continue to improve the processes, rules and regulations that help us accomplish that mission on a daily basis.

In 2015, we once again experienced record levels of oil and gas production in Ohio. During the first three quarters of 2015, Ohio’s horizontal shale well production surpassed the amount of oil and gas that was produced in all of 2014. Just four years ago, Ohio produced only 9 percent of the natural gas being used in the state. This year, Ohio’s wells produced more than 95 percent of the natural gas Ohioans consumed, and we anticipate that in 2016, natural gas production in Ohio will exceed the needs of Ohioans. Oil production continues to grow as well, with production estimates for next year expected to exceed those seen when J.D. Rockefeller made his fortune in the oil fields of northwest Ohio. Advancements in technology have enabled companies to drill longer and safer wells in shorter periods of time, while large investments continue to be made in pipeline infrastructure in order to transport the record volumes of oil and gas being produced in the state. This progress requires regulatory adjustment, and we continue to grow and improve with the industry.

Currently, ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management has more than 50 inspectors across the state, and they conducted more than 25,000 inspections this year. Five years ago, we had fewer than 20 inspectors. These inspectors oversee well construction and completion to ensure that each well is placed into production in compliance with the law. Inspectors also perform routine inspections throughout the life of a well. In June, ODNR finalized horizontal well pad construction rules and continues to develop additional rules to better protect our communities and environment. ODNR also created an Emergency Response Team this year, tasked with responding to oilfield incidents, working and training alongside local responders, coordinating state, local and private emergency resources, and developing protocols to prevent future incidents.

ODNR’s dedication to ‘getting it right’ has not gone unnoticed. Ohio received primacy over the Class II injection well program in 1983 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Subject to the primacy agreement, U.S. EPA conducts periodic audits and stated in their most recent report that “Ohio runs a good quality program” and “has taken concrete steps to address emerging issues” with “changes [that] enhance rather than reduce the effectiveness of the program EPA approved.” ODNR experts are also leaders in the study of induced seismicity, having been instrumental in creating a primer for all states to follow in addressing this phenomenon. Ohio has deployed an extensive seismic network across eastern Ohio to learn more about induced seismicity and will continue as a leader in the national conversation on this subject.

We are always working to improve our standards, and ODNR continues to be a national leader in the proactive implementation of well safety rules and environmental protections. We will continue to adapt and address potential impacts to our environment and public safety as oil and natural gas expansion continues in Ohio. Our goal has not changed: we want to allow Ohioans to benefit from the natural resources with which we have been blessed in our state, as long as those resources are developed safely and responsibly.

Jim Zehringer is the Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). A native of Mercer County, he formerly served Darke, Mercer and Preble counties as a state representative for the 77th House District, and he is also a former Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture