Transfer of mineral rights may mean windfall for Valley property owners

By Ed Runyan


For 7,000 property owners in Mahoning County, 7,000 in Trumbull and 450 in Columbiana whose “deep” mineral rights were transferred June 26 from Everflow Eastern of Canfield to Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma, the result could be — eventually — higher royalties for the property owners than they now receive.

But having Chesapeake in possession of rights to the Utica shale formation won’t be as lucrative for the property owners as those who sold their mineral rights to BP America this spring, said Atty. Mark Finamore, who represents several townships and villages as well as private-property owners.

Rights to the Utica shale are sometimes referred to as “deep rights” because the Utica shale formation is lower in the ground than the Clinton shale, which Everflow has been mining in the Mahoning Valley for several decades.

Chesapeake bought the deep mineral rights to 28,000 acres for about $35 million from Everflow in February, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

It is not known how many of those 28,000 acres are in Mahon- ing, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Calls to Everflow regarding the leases were not returned, and Chesapeake declined to comment.

“There’s no negative impact, no disadvantage to them for their rights being assigned” to Chesapeake, Finamore said of the property owners.

In fact, the transfer will be a “windfall” because if and when Chesapeake begins to drill on that land using horizontal fracturing, it’s likely that the company will be able to extract a much larger amount of gas and oil than Everflow could using the older vertical form of drilling, Finamore said.

The terms and conditions in the original leases with Everflow transfer to Chesapeake, Finamore said, including the percentage of royalties being paid — in most cases 12.5 percent.

The Everflow property owners won’t get a signing bonus such as the BP owners got, Finamore said. They received their signing bonus when they signed their lease — typically $100, Finamore said.

BP, conversely, is paying its property owners a signing bonus of $3,900 an acre on the 84,000 acres it has leased in Trumbull County. BP is paying its property owners royalties of 17.5 percent.

Those people who signed leases with Everflow didn’t know at the time that technology would make it possible for drilling companies to use horizontal fracturing to extract oil and gas from the much deeper Utica shale layer, Finamore said.

They made the best deal they could at the time, but their leases — some as old as 25 years — will prevent them from getting the kind of money the BP property owners are getting, Finamore said.

Two of the leases for the Everflow property owners obtained at the Trumbull County Recorder’s Office gave Everflow and any company buying the lease the right to extract minerals “for five years and as long thereafter as operations are being conducted on any such unit or oil or gas can be produced in paying quantities.”

If a property owner wishes to, he can try to argue that his lease should be canceled on the grounds that the well is dormant. Short of that, the lease allows the drilling company to keep the mineral rights for an indefinite period of time, Finamore said.

“As long as operations are being conducted and gas and oil can be produced ... their lease goes on in perpetuity,” Finamore said.

Trumbull County Recorder Diana Marchese said most of the leases transferred to Chesapeake June 26 involved Everflow but possibly not all.

The recorder’s office reported that the title work on the leases produced the largest single fee ever charged in Trumbull County for a title transfer — $34,159 — and took several employees two weeks to complete.

In Trumbull County, most of the leases are for land in the townships of Warren, Weathersfield and Howland, but there are some in Bazetta, Champion, Liberty and Lordstown. Many of the parcels are small — in many cases only a quarter of an acre, records show.

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