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The Suburbanite
  • Ohio's past is filled with oil booms

  • The arrival of companies exploring the Utica shale is just the most recent in a series of oil booms that have driven the industry’s growth in Ohio.

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  • During the summer of 2010 a team of oil industry supporters traveled the state reminding folks that drilling for black crude is a big part of the state’s past.
    Ohio’s first producing oil well went online in 1860. The 150th anniversary of that well was being touted by the Ohio Oil & Gas Association as Chesapeake Energy and other companies were starting to sign leases to drill in the Utica shale.
    It was coincidence that the milestone anniversary coincided with the new search for Ohio oil and gas.
    Members of the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program — aligned with OOGA — decided to use that coincidence, said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the program. OOGEEP launched a media tour, and visited newspapers and organizations around the state.
    “We used it as an opportunity to discuss what would be happening with the Utica,” Reda said.
    While most Ohioans were unaware of the Utica shale formation, oil industry groups realized the state had another oil boom on the horizon.
    OHIO OIL BOOMS
    Oil booms are part of Ohio’s history.
    Workers drilling for salt in Noble County were disappointed to find oil back in 1814. The crude was only 475 feet deep. The Thorla-McKee well marked the first recorded discovery of oil in the United States.
    The Drake well near Titusville, Pa., was the nation’s first commercial oil well in 1859, but Ohio wasn’t far behind. In 1860, investors began producing oil from the Macksburg/Dexter oilfield in Washington County, roughly 10 miles southeast of the Thorla-McKee well.
    Oil was sought to make kerosene, which was replacing more expensive whale oil to light homes and provide heat. By the mid 1870s, Cleveland ranked as one of the nation’s leading refinery cities and J.D. Rockefeller was assembling the parts that became the Standard Oil Co.
    During the 1880s drilling companies began using the natural gas that came out of the ground with oil. The availability of inexpensive natural gas in western Ohio helped persuade Edward Drummond Libbey to move his glass business to Toledo from Boston.
    During the 1890s, Ohio ranked as the nation’s leading oil producer. The first boom lasted through the 1920s. Others followed, including development of the East Canton Oilfield during the 1940s and 1950s.
    LOCAL IMPACT
    In Stark County, nearly 6,500 wells have been drilled through the years, and nearly 3,000 of those wells still produce gas and oil.
    Early in the 20th century companies drilled hundreds of wells in Jackson and Lawrence townships. When those wells stopped producing, the East Ohio Gas Co. — now part of Dominion Resources — used the rock formation to store natural gas produced in other parts of the country.
    Stark County’s oldest well, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources records, is the Frank Hartzell 1 and it dates to August 1900. It was abandoned and plugged in 1929. A Nimishillen Township well that dates to 1908 still is producing.
    Page 2 of 3 - Most area wells went into sandstone formations. Older wells were drilled into the Berea sandstone, while most wells in the East Canton Oilfield, which runs from southern Portage County south through Stark and into Carroll County, reach the Clinton sandstone.
    Geologists have known for years that shale is a source rock for oil and natural gas. The compounds are created from the decayed remains of ancient plants and animals. Pressure and heat from the Earth’s core have turned the remains and silt from ancient sea beds into the hard shale.
    Companies searching for oil and gas will look for shale first, said Pete MacKenzie, a geologist and vice president for operations with the OOGA. If shale isn’t found, it’s doubtful that oil or gas will be found.
    “Shale is a great source rock. It’s not a good reservoir,” MacKenzie said.
    Sandstone formations, however, are good reservoirs. MacKenzie said the Clinton sandstone is filled with pockets and traps where oil and gas have collected through the years. He suspects the oil and gas in the Clinton formation actually migrated from source rock in Pennsylvania.
    SHALE DRILLING
    It has only been during the past 10 years that oil and gas exploration companies actually have begun extracting oil and gas from the tight shale rock formations.
    Developments in horizontal drilling — something that was done in Ohio back as early as 1941 — have made it possible to drill through a shale formation and access a broader area. Before horizontal drilling, vertical wells sometimes would hit shale and see a spurt of oil and gas production, but that would be short-lived.
    Changes in hydraulic fracturing also have allowed companies to pull more oil and gas from shale formations. But when hydraulic fracturing is used in shale drilling, it requires upward to 5 million gallons of water, along with sand and assorted chemicals. Mixed in a slurry, the fluid is forced into the well to break apart the shale.
    Environmental groups oppose hydraulic fracturing, contending the process uses too much water and large amounts of chemicals. There is concern that the fluid will contaminate ground water. Groups also worry that well casings will break under pressure from the gas and oil flowing from the shale, sending natural gas toward the surface and into water.
    Reda points out that hydraulic fracturing has been used in Ohio since the 1950s. An article in a September 1954 edition of the Hartville News describes the hydraulic fracturing of a well in Lake Township and notes the process was used near East Sparta in 1952.
    Before hydraulic fracturing, companies used dynamite and nitroglycerin to fracture rock and release oil and gas from formations. Companies still are looking at different methods to fracture rock, with the hope of using less water in the process.
    Page 3 of 3 - Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or edd.pritchard@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @epritchardREP