Landowners in Belmont & Monroe Counties (OH) Receive $60 Million in Lease Payments from Wishgard; Tri Star Inks 127 New Leases

moneyOhio continues to be red hot with respect to leasing mineral rights for shale gas (and now oil) drilling. Some counties, like Belmont, can’t keep up with the lawyers and researchers who pour over property records at the County Recorder’s office:

Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas drilling seems to be taking off in Belmont County – so much so that a leasing company paid mineral owners as much as $60 million last week.

With 20-30 gas abstractors searching for mineral owners in the county recorder’s office on a daily basis, there may be much more money on the way for those who own gas rights in Belmont and neighboring counties.

"They have been here in full force for about two to three months," Belmont County Recorder Mary Catherine Nixon said of the abstractors. "Before they came, we would just have a few local attorneys here on a daily basis.

"Now, we have 20-30 of them every day. Some of the attorneys are now complaining that they can’t even get to the books anymore," she added.

Having the abstractors dig through the property records has yielded Nixon some unexpected revenue, as her office brought in about $5,000 on July 25 alone for recording leases and copying materials.

This included 127 new lease agreements for Ebensburg, Pa.-based Tri Star Energy Holdings.

Kip Tygard, managing partner of Wishgard, said his company planned to pay out $50-$60 million in lease revenue to property owners in Belmont and northern Monroe counties last week.

"Car dealerships are going to be doing well. Tractor supply companies will be doing well. It will be a big boost to the economy," he said.

One should keep in mind that Wishgard is just one of the companies paying lease revenue in Belmont and neighboring counties. Moreover, these upfront lease payments do not take into account the gas production royalties – usually ranging from 12.5 to 18 percent – the companies will be paying mineral owners if or when the gas starts flowing.

Wishgard, itself, is not a natural gas producer, Tygard noted.

"Oil and gas companies hire us to lease land for them. We now have about 90,000 acres under lease in eastern Ohio," he said.

Tygard said most of the companies operating in Belmont and surrounding counties are pursuing natural gas from the Utica Shale, a rock formation that is actually deeper in the earth than the Marcellus.

"It’s really hot right now," he said. "We knew Belmont had a lot of potential."*

According to the Belmont County Recorder’s Office, the following companies are currently active in digging through property records:

  • Wishgard LLC
  • Mason Dixon Energy
  • Marquette Exploration
  • OhTex Energy
  • David Hill Inc.
  • Chesapeake Energy
  • Gulfport Energy
  • DPS Penn
  • Oxford Oil Co.
  • Phillips Resources Inc. (subsidiary of ExxonMobil)
  • Reserve Energy Exploration
  • Solid Rock Energy

*The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Aug 3, 2011) – Belmont County Gas Business Is Booming