A number of landowners from Belmont County, Ohio made the trip to Wheeling, WV last week to sign leases to allow drilling in the Utica Shale on their property. The leases were signed with XTO Energy, now a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil. The price landowners got for Utica leases rivals the highest prices MDN has heard of for any Marcellus Shale lease, in no small part because of Chesapeake Energy’s recent discovery of natural gas liquids and even oil in the Utica Shale in Ohio.
Belmont County mineral owners continue raising the bar in signing Utica Shale leases, as scores of them signed Friday to gain $4,950 per acre and 19 percent on production royalties.
"This will be a huge economic boost for Belmont County," said Ed Sustersic, attorney in charge of arranging the deals. "We have analyzed this and we believe XTO will be a valuable partner for the landowners in Belmont County. It has been a pleasure to work with them."
Though he did not know the exact amount of acreage involved, Sustersic called the sum "substantial," noting he has worked with "an awful lot of landowners." Sustersic said the landowners organized by "word of mouth alone," noting another signing session may take place later, contingent upon demand.
"We feel we have done well, and we hope others do well," he said of other mineral owner advocacy groups.
Some believe the Utica Shale that underlies much of eastern Ohio may ultimately prove even more valuable than the Marcellus Shale beneath Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This is because, analysts say, the Utica contains more ethane, propane, butane and pentane than the Marcellus, and may hold significant amounts of oil.*
Belmont County is a current hotbed of leasing activity. Hess recently purchased leasing rights to 185,000 Utica Shale acres in Belmont, Jefferson, Harrison and Guernsey counties for $1.34 billion. And Exxon Mobil recently bought Phillips Resources for $1.7 billion, which has a large number of leased acres in Belmont County.
*The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Sep 17, 2011) – Property Owners Line Up for Exxon