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OHIO Energy producers express need for national policy



Published: Mon, May 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Buckeye State pumps out about 16,000 barrels a day of oil.

YOUNGSTOWN -- The lack of a comprehensive national energy policy is preventing Ohio oil and gas producers from attracting the investment dollars they need for exploration and drilling, an industry official says.

"We are not replacing reserves as a country," said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Natural Gas Association. "We are becoming more and more reliant on foreign countries."

A national energy policy could increase access to known oil and natural gas fields, which would lessen this dependence, he said.

Larger supplies also would take some volatility out of prices, which is often caused by international events, he said.

Finding fields

Now, producers are scrambling to find fields in isolated areas where drilling can be done without impacting an urban environment or upsetting environmentalists.

He compared the recent controversy over drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Ohio's refusal to even discuss drilling in Lake Erie. In both cases, a fairly new technology called directional drilling, where one drilling platform is bored sideways directly into a reservoir, makes it possible to drill in an environmentally responsible fashion, he said.

While Congress at least considered drilling in the ANWR, Gov. Bob Taft and several legislators have already said no to Lake Erie drilling, Stewart said. This hasn't stopped the Canadians, however, who are selling natural gas from beneath Lake Erie to utility companies in Ohio and elsewhere.

While Stewart stopped short of advocating drilling in Lake Erie, he said many producers want to know why it won't even be discussed.

"We just want to talk about it," he said. Ben Cart, president of Poland-based Petrox, is one local producer who would like an answer.

"We're just looking for an understanding," he said.

Ohio producers know what to do, he said. Directional drilling has already been done with new wells at Berlin Reservoir and Mosquito Lake.

Dilemma

Many of the known fields locally are within urban areas in the city of Youngstown, said Cart. This is a dilemma for gas and oil producers in Ohio. Directional drilling is an option in these cases, but it's more expensive than sinking a well directly into the ground.

Drilling in rural areas also is becoming harder, Cart said. Aside from environmental objections, obtaining leases is becoming more difficult when farmers can sell land to developers for commercial projects.

Both Cart and Stewart predicted a slow and steady rise in energy prices within the next five years, although external forces will cause peaks and valleys. Ohio is in a better position than most states, said Cart and Stewart. While not on a par with Texas or Louisiana, the Buckeye State still produces about 10 percent of the natural gas it consumes and pumps out about 16,000 barrels a day of oil.




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