WATERFORD - Residents curious about what drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations could mean for them attended a presentation hosted by the Wolf Creek Local Board of Education Monday night.
Bob Chase, professor and chairman of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at Marietta College, discussed the nature of the formations, how oil and natural gas would be accessed from them and why there's been a frenzy lately to lease land for drilling. About a dozen residents, plus board of education members and a handful of Waterford seniors, attended the session, held after a brief regular board meeting.
The Marcellus shale may be the name people have been hearing most when it comes to drilling for natural gas deposits but Chase said the Utica formation holds more promise for eastern Ohio. While the Marcellus formation is 7,000 to 9,000 feet deep beneath Pennsylvania and West Virginia, its depth is only about 3,000 feet as it comes into Ohio.
"The Utica shale is about 3,000 to 4,000 feet deeper than the Marcellus shale, so it's got the depth and the thickness" to be a productive formation, Chase said.
In addition, a portion of the Utica formation running though eastern Ohio appears to be a good source of oil, which is why companies are spending so much on investigating it and acquiring leases.
"The amount of money you can make on an oil well is a lot more than you can make drilling for natural gas," Chase said.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 10, Waterford High School band room.
Developing a significant domestic source of oil would cause the price to drop, he said.
"I would expect gasoline prices to drop $1 a gallon over the next five years if this Utica play is successful," Chase added.
No wells have been drilled in Washington County to determine whether there is oil here or not but the potential is there, he said. A company run by two of his former students is planning a well in the Woodsfield area.
Chase also talked about hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the controversial process used to access the natural gas and oil in the shale formations.
He said multiple layers of metal and cement are used to prevent the mixture of water, sand and chemicals from coming into contact with freshwater aquifers. The fractures made in the shale are so deep in the ground that it's virtually impossible for them to affect the water, Chase said.
Beverly resident Tom Witten, 31, said that was one of his main concerns. He said Chase's explanation that the "frack water" pulled from the wells after being used is stored in tankers and taken to disposal wells as opposed to being placed in a pond made him feel better about the process.
"More knowledge is better, for all landowners," Witten said. "I want to be informed about the dangers, especially the groundwater."
Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell said the forum was held in an effort to engage and serve the community.
"We just wanted to provide an opportunity to educate the community members that were interested," he said.