Wednesday, April 15th, 2015
3D seismic oil/gas testing begins locally
Thousands of farmland acres have been leased for exploration
By Shelley Grieshop
FORT RECOVERY - For the first time in northwest Ohio two companies are using three-dimensional seismic testing to search local farmland for oil and natural gas.
BJGL LCC of Pennsylvania and Buckeye Oil Producing, Wooster, are conducting 3D seismic testing in about 10,000 acres in the Gibson Township area - mainly on farmland. If successful, they plan to continue the process in other areas including northern Mercer County.
The companies have already completed 2D seismic testing "and it looks promising," BJGL manager Dave Sheldon told the newspaper Tuesday.
"It looks successful and we anticipate an even better result with 3D," he said. "We have to wait and see. We're cautiously optimistic."
The local 3D seismic tests involve creating seismic waves on the surface of the ground using small charges in shallow holes about 3 inches in diameter, Sheldon explained. The information obtained from the waves that are reflected off subsurface formations is recorded by geophones.
"3D is much more expensive, but it's a more sophisticated science," Sheldon said.
3D seismic tests use source points and receiver points laid out in a grid across the property. 2D testing solely involves a single line of source and receiver points.
The local 3D testing is being completed "by hand" in a very noninvasive manner instead of using heavy equipment, he said.
"It's what the farmers want. We're really trying to accommodate the farmers," Sheldon said.
3D testing began in Mercer County about two weeks ago, he said. The companies should know by June whether significant amounts of oil and/or gas are located in the rich farmland, he added.
They intend to complete the 3D testing by April 25, Sheldon noted.
"And we stand by that promise. We don't want to get in the farmer's way for planting," he added.
Although oil is more profitable, natural gas also is considered a valuable asset, Sheldon said. Area farmers have the opportunity to use the natural gas found on their land for hog operations, corn drying and other uses, he said.
More than 90 land leases involving thousands of acres have been filed in Mercer County since 2013 between various companies and property owners in nine of the 14 townships. The legal documents give companies access to test, drill or perform other action on the land as stipulated in each agreement.
Testing also is being conducted on government-owned property. Mercer County Commissioners on Tuesday granted permission to Precision Geophysical Inc. of Millersburg to perform 3D seismic tests along three roads in Gibson Township.
Sheldon confirmed that Precision Geophysical is performing the work for BJGL and Buckeye Oil.
The tests along the Sharpsburg, Fox and Watkins roads will take place from April 20 to May 20, according to the permit approved by commissioners. The job includes laying cables and geophones along the shoulder of the road and using a vibe vehicle, also known as a "thumper truck," to emit vibrations intercepted by geophones.
The work does not damage the roadway and all equipment is picked up when the testing is complete, according to Precision Geophysical Supervisor William Peterson.
According to the Mercer County Recorder's Office website, Buckeye Oil has most of the current oil and natural gas leases on file. About a dozen were filed by Johnston Petroleum and Ohio Shale Energy. Most of the leases give the companies rights for testing, drilling and/or pipe installation.
Many of the land lease contracts with oil/gas companies give landowners a royalty stipend for all gas and oil profits before expenses. Most contracts also give lessors specific amounts of natural gas each year, at no charge, if their well becomes productive.
Some landowners reportedly were granted upfront signing bonuses but details are not public.
The leases on file in Mercer County involve properties in Gibson, Recovery, Granville, Hopewell, Dublin, Union, Center, Blackcreek and Jefferson townships. Most focus on farmland in the southern region of the county.
Only 11 oil wells were drilled in Mercer County from 1961 to 2013, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
In the 1800s, the region from Mercer County to Wood County in northwest Ohio, and west to Indiana, was the birth site of Ohio's oil industry. By 1887, the area was considered the largest oil-producing region in the world until reaching its peak in 1896, ODNR history states.
In the 1890s, Grand Lake became the site of the first off-shore oil drilling platform. In 1915, the lake was home to more than 150 oil wells.
"We're drawing our interest from what happened in the area years ago," Sheldon said. "I think we can expand on that based on the better sciences today. We anticipate better results."
He noted that successful tests will have far-reaching benefits.
"I think this will open up the area and be very good for your communities," Sheldon said.