Carroll County is Utica shale capital of Ohio
Although Canton claims to be the Utica shale capital, Carroll County is where the action is taking place.
Locals first began noticing the oil boom that has swept through Carroll County two years ago.
That’s when landmen from oil companies began offering to buy mineral rights. The companies were seeking rights to drill horizontal wells into the Utica and Marcellus shale formations, where they expect to find oil and natural gas.
The influx of drilling companies has generated jobs, spawned new businesses and boosted the county’s tax base.
“I have yet to see any negatives,” Glenn Enslen, Carroll County’s economic development director, said of drilling in the Utica shale. “I believe it has the power to transform all of Appalachia Ohio.”
Over the past two years, companies have received 139 horizontal well permits — one for the Marcellus shale and the rest for the Utica — in Carroll County, compared with 51 permits in Columbiana County and 33 in Harrison County.
Carroll has 21 producing horizontal wells, one in the Marcellus and 20 in the Utica.
Almost all of those wells belong to Chesapeake Energy. Five are EnerVest wells
and two are R.E. Gas Development.
Following the drilling companies have been support operations that supply everything from pipeline equipment to uniforms.
So far, eight large companies have opened facilities in the county, Enslen said.
One is MRC, an oilfield service company created when McJunkin and Red Man merged. In October, the company will open a service center with a 12,000-square-foot warehouse and six acre service yard. MRC hired 10 new employees and more jobs could be coming — depending on oil and gas production.
MRC expects to be doing business in eastern Ohio for some time and Carroll County was a great place to open a facility, said Jamie Burgess, a company spokesman. “All indications now is we’re in the early part of a boom that should last a long time,” he said.
‘A LOT OF WEALTH’
Carroll County’s Chamber of Commerce has added 58 members since April 2011, said Amy Rutledge, the executive director. Some are new businesses locating in the area because of the oil exploration. Others are established businesses that have seen advantages of affiliating with the chamber because of the new businesses.
The search for oil is one reason why residents have noticed increased traffic. Finding a parking space on the square in Carrollton can be difficult. There are more large trucks on the highways.
But that traffic has its advantages.
During the past year, oil companies have spent nearly $30 million rebuilding or repairing county and township roads that lead to drilling sights. Close to $28 million has been spent by Chesapeake, and the company expects to spend more as it drills in new locations.
Meanwhile, people in the additional vehicles using Carroll County roads stop and shop, said Doyle Hawk, a county commissioner. They’re buying lunch and gasoline. Or they’re looking for equipment and tools. Plenty of people have been buying cars and trucks.
Auditor Leroy VanHorne said the county’s sales tax collections already are $300,000 ahead of 2011. In July the county collected more than $270,000 in sales taxes, which was $85,000 more than was collected in July 2011.
The county also has collected an additional $100,000 in conveyance fees tied to mineral rights transactions, VanHorne said.
Still being sorted out is the amount of taxes that will be collected once wells begin producing. Estimates are taxes of $2,000 per well, VanHorne said.
A farmer, Hawk is among many Carroll County landowners who has benefited by leasing mineral rights. Chesapeake and other companies spent millions to secure mineral rights, which has flushed income into the county. Now that some wells are producing land owners will be receiving royalty checks.
“There’s going to be a lot of wealth created by this,” Hawk said.
As money comes in, residents are probably paying down debt, Rutledge said. She has seen folks making home repairs, while Enslen said he’s seen several new barns and farmers with new tractors.
“Folks are just finally, maybe getting caught up,” Rutledge said.
Carroll County’s oil boom is moving into a new phase as drilling increases and companies begin building pipelines that will transport gas.
County Record Patricia Oyer said her office remains busy. Landmen began filing leases in August 2010 and activity peaked in June 2011. By then, the county had lined hallways with work tables oil company workers researched records.
Some of the oil industry lean researchers have been working from the Carroll County Court House since the summer of 2010, Oyer said. “They’re almost like family.”
The boom has helped reduce Carroll County’s unemployment, which is has been slightly lower then the state’s average this summer. Carroll posted a 7.1 percent jobless rate in July, which was lower then unemployment rates posted in other eastern Ohio counties that are seeing oil activity.
There has been an influx of out-of-state workers who operate drilling rigs and build pipelines, but plenty of local people have found jobs with companies that are new to the area.
Companies coming to the area seem excited by the opportunity, Enslen said.
“They’re concerned about projecting a positive public image,” he said, “and not presenting anything that can be construed as negative.”
By the numbers
• 139 permits issued
• 49 wells drilled
• 21 of those wells producing
• 7.1 percent in July 2012
• 9.6 percent in July 2011
Sales tax collections
• Already more than $300,000 ahead of 2011
Revenue collected by the County Recorder
• $489,100 through Sept. 10, 2011
• $678,600 through Sept. 10, 2012
Mineral leases filed with the County Recorder
• 1,158 filings through Sept. 10, 2011
• 1,324 filings through Sept. 10, 2012?
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