WHEELING - A number of factors are involved in piecing together a drilling unit such as the "Timmy Minch" unit in Ohio County, Chesapeake Energy officials said.
The unit consists primarily of acreage from Oglebay Park, along with 26 other property owners.
Some residents have expressed concern that once drilling begins later this year, there will be a risk of methane or other chemicals being released into the environment near or in Oglebay Park. Others worry that Chesapeake may drain the gas from their property - even if they do not have a lease with the energy company.
However, Chesapeake Senior Director of Corporate Development Stacey Brodak and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said neither of these concerns should come to pass.
"If a mineral tract is not under lease, or is only partially leased, Chesapeake attempts to secure leases from all remaining landowners prior to drilling. If Chesapeake does not acquire the necessary rights, then it can adjust its wellbore path to avoid any unleased tracts," Brodak said.
Chesapeake is now constructing the Minch pad, just off Browns Run Road in the area south of Oglebay. To reach the well site from Bethany Pike, one would travel on Warden Run Road to Boggs Hill Road. Upon turning from Boggs Hill onto Browns Run, the well site lies just over the hill.
According to documents at the Ohio County Clerk's Office, Chesapeake's drilling pad for the Minch well consists of 543 acres pooled together from 27 separate leases in the Oglebay Park area. The majority of this acreage, 322.5 acres, is in the name of the Wheeling Park Commission and the city of Wheeling. The unit, as presented, appears to leave out some pieces of nearby property. However, as Brodak said, this is because the company does not have these properties under lease.
In the horizontal drilling process, Chesapeake will drill the vertical portion of the well more than a mile deep on the Minch property. Drillers will then turn the drill bit laterally to form the horizontal well, allowing them to access the Marcellus Shale rock underneath Oglebay and the neighboring properties.
Brodak said her company orders title opinions from attorneys to undertake extensive title reviews prior to drilling any lateral well. This process helps Chesapeake confirm that it has leases from all mineral owners under each tract its wellbore penetrates.
As for possible pollution or contamination that may result from the drilling or fracking process, Brodak said Chesapeake will install at least four layers of cemented steel casing to protect groundwater at shallow depths, while preserving well integrity at deeper depths. She emphasized the casing will run the entire length of the well to provide protection.
"The final casing string, called production casing, runs the length of the entire well, including the horizontal portion, and is cemented in place," she said. "In many cases, wells produce through a fifth layer of steel pipe, called production tubing, which is installed inside the production casing."
Cosco said that West Virginia regulators require drillers to provide a fresh water and coal protection casing string set and cementing for gas wells to help protect against any contamination.
"Other casings are likely in lower zones for various purposes in well control, such as production isolation and separation from the fresh water protection string," she said.