Did This Map Get the Ohio State Geologist Fired?

Larry Wickstrom ODNRSpeculation has run rampant about why Ohio’s official state geologist, Larry Wickstrom, chief of the ODNR’s Division of Geological Survey, was fired in May. Much of that speculation revolves around a PowerPoint presentation he created in March which essentially redrew the lines of where the best/most likely areas in the state would be to drill for oil and natural gas. A copy of Wickstrom’s full presentation, which has a lot of interesting maps and details, is embedded below.

The controversy seems to revolve around one particular map in the presentation (see the map immediately below). The map redrew boundary lines for the best drilling locations, in Wickstrom’s estimation, based on the data. Wickstrom has worked for the ODNR for 29 years. He’s a smart guy. But his map upset the apple cart for some, and less than two months later, he got his walking papers.

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Fire Sale Begins: Chesapeake Sells Midstream Assets for $4B

Chesapeake Energy announced today that they have sold their midstream assets, including their Chesapeake Midstream subsidiary, to Global Infrastructure Partners for a total deal worth $4 billion. Chesapeake’s midstream assets include pipelines and processing plants. The announcement comes just prior to their annual meeting being held today in Oklahoma City and no doubt is an effort by Aubrey McClendon to tamp down criticism of the mountain of debt the company has piled up under his watch.

The company has also put other assets, including 337,000 acres of Utica Shale acreage, on the auction block in a bid to reduce the debt load.

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Avoiding Shale Energy Boom/Bust Cycle in Ohio

Two Ohio State University graduate students, under the watchful eye of an advisor, have authored a policy brief titled “Making Shale Development Work for Ohio” which aims to provide politicians with guidance on how to avoid the so-called boom/bust cycle that shale energy “may” create in Ohio (a full copy of the brief is embedded below).

The grad students say Ohio needs to take steps now to ensure the state benefits from the shale energy boom in both the short- and long-term. Failure to do so, according to the brief, will “likely” have long-lasting negative effects. Among the brief’s recommendations are:

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Muskingum Watershed Reverses Decision to Sell Water to Drillers

Someone from the enviro-left movement has gotten to the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) board and the board has caved. On June 6 news broke that the MWCD had earlier this year commissioned a study that would look at using three of the reservoirs it controls to make water sales to drillers for use in hydraulic fracturing (see this MDN story). The MWCD had already approved one deal to sell 11 million gallons of water from Clendening Lake to Gulfport Energy.

But the very next day—yesterday—the MWCD issued a press release saying no more water sales would be considered until the study is complete “later this year” (except for the 11 million gallons already agreed to). You scratch your head and say, “Well yeah, duh, that’s what the study is for!” But that’s not all.

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Shell: Final Decision on Cracker Plant Still 18-24 Mo. Away

MDN previously warned that the final decision of where Shell will build an ethane cracker plant is not a done deal. It certainly is looking good—they selected a site in Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh—and they are deep into planning for that site. But Shell CEO Peter Voser was quoted as saying it would be “several years” before a go/no decision on whether to build it would be made (see this MDN story).

That timeline of several years was reaffirmed by a Shell representative yesterday in comments to the Pittsburgh Business Times:

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Columbiana County, OH Landowners Seek Minimum Royalty Law

A few weeks ago MDN highlighted a story about a couple living in Columbiana County, Ohio who were due to get more than $375,000 in lease payments from Chesapeake Energy for their 65 acres of property, but the deal fell through when Chesapeake discovered the land under the property was already locked into a decades-old lease by Columbia Gas Transmission. The couple is suing to be released from that contract (see this MDN story).

We have word today that other landowners from the same area also affected by the Columbia lease are trying a different tact: Pass a state law imposing minimum royalties.

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New Drilling Mud Facility Opens in Marshall County, WV

AES Drilling Fluids along with officials from the city of Benwood (Marshall County, WV) and state officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday on a new $2 million drilling fluids facility just opened in the North Benwood Industrial Park. The new facility provides drilling mud to drillers in the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

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Antero Hits Aquifer in WV, Creates Backyard Geysers

Antero Resources was drilling a natural gas well in the Sardis, WV area (near Clarksburg) when they hit a water aquifer in the area. It resulted in several abandoned nearby water wells to start gushing water, some of it blowing 10 feet or more into the air. But there were no chemicals being used during drilling, it was the initial stages and only water and air were used, and the air is what caused the problem.

Here’s what happened:

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The Economics of Shale Cuttings and Landfills

Some of what comes out of the holes drilled for natural gas wells is rock and dirt. More precisely, a substance called “shale cuttings.” According to the MDN glossary, shale cuttings are: “Small pieces of rock that break away during the drilling process. Cuttings are screened out of the liquid mud by using shale shakers, or screens that allow the liquid to pass through but filter out the bits of rock.”

Since 2010 the municipal landfill in Bradford County, PA has accepted shale cuttings, making a tidy sum from it ($130,000). But the cuttings, and the revenue, stopped at the end of 2011. Why? Bradford County charges more than other landfills, like the municipal landfill across the border in Chemung County, NY. Not surprisingly, drillers haul their cuttings to cheaper landfills instead.

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