The Utica shale is the most talked-about segment of Ohio’s energy future, but it’s just part of the puzzle, one expert told a Walsh University crowd Wednesday night during an energy development forum organized by U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth.
The Utica shale is the most talked-about segment of Ohio’s energy future, but it’s just part of the puzzle, one expert told a Walsh University crowd Wednesday night.
As dozens of energy companies try to reap the benefits of oil and natural gas trapped 6,500 feet underground within the Utica shale, farmers on the surface are looking at plants that will be used as biomass for energy generation in the future, said Dale Arnold, director of energy utility and local government policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
“They won’t be growing corn and beans,” Arnold said. Those plants don’t have the complicated hydrocarbons that companies are looking for to replace coal and natural gas as fuels burned to generate electricity.
But biomass and shale oil are just some of the many options being considered as planners ponder the energy future, Arnold said. Energy demand will increase in the future. Arnold said there is no silver bullet to solve the problem, but there is a “silver buckshot” option.
Arnold was one of four speakers who made presentations Wednesday during an energy development forum organized by U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth.
About 165 people attended, with many of them coming from area businesses that are part of the growing drilling business. There also were opponents of drilling who raised questions with some of the panelists.
Most of the forum focused on shale drilling which has stormed into eastern Ohio during the last two years. Along with Arnold, Renacci assembled a panel that included Rhonda Reda, executive director for the Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program; Jim McKinney, senior vice president and general manager for EnerVest Operating; and Robert W. Chase, chairman of Marietta College’s department of petroleum engineering and geology.
Utica shale development has “put our great state into the spotlight,” Renacci said.
Renacci said he supports the “all-of-the-above” approach to energy development, but emphasized the need to be prudent when developing shale oil fields.
Shale drilling has been controversial, with environmental groups raising questions about ground water safety, air pollution and the use of chemicals. Drilling has become affordable because of developments in horizontal drilling, which allows companies to bore through narrow shale bands. A process called hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — is used after drilling to release gas and oil from the rock. A slurry of water, sand and chemicals is forced under pressure into the well to break the rock and release hydrocarbons.
No one on the panel spoke against drilling. All of the participants contended the drilling and fracking processes are tested and safe. They also noted that Ohio’s drilling regulations are touted as some of the nation’s best.
Chase, who also serves on the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, said new drilling techniques have helped reduce the impact on land. “It is so much more environmentally friendly,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - About a half-dozen members of TASK (Take Action Spread Knowledge), a local group opposed to drilling, attended the meeting wanting to ask questions about environmental concerns. While some of their questions were presented, the members were unhappy because their questions were lumped with others and not asked in full.
“This was definitely pro-fracking,” said Renee Bogue, a Massillon resident. She’s concerned about pollution from machinery used in drilling and methane migration at some well sites.
Meanwhile, members of Energy Citizens Ohio were giving away T-shirts and handing out bumper stickers after the forum. (Information has been corrected to fix and error. See correction at end of story. 6:15 p.m. 5/24) Jonathan Petrea said the group is working to build support for oil and gas development in Ohio.
Correction: T-shirts were being given away, not sold, at an energy development forumn on Wednesday. That information was reported incorrectly when this story was first published Wednesday night.