In an effort to expand its footprint in Northeast Ohio and capitalize on its oil- and gas-exploration efforts here, BP continued to secure more mineral-rights leases in Columbiana County throughout November.
According to the Columbiana County Recorder’s Office, there were 317 such leases purchased by multiple companies in November, with BP buying about 59.
In September, the company had secured two leases in the county, and it purchased 26 in October.
BP already had landed 30 mineral-rights leases for December as of Monday.
Leasing is a prerequisite to further oil and gas development as a company must first secure mineral rights across a given amount of acreage before the site can be permitted for a well.
“I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary,” said Columbiana County Recorder Craig Brown. “Quite frankly, it doesn’t surprise me. We’ve seen this sort of activity in Mahoning and Trumbull County over the last six months or more. I was kind of expecting this to happen.”
The company announced in March that it would lease about 85,000 acres in Trumbull County for Utica Shale exploration. BP also has purchased 204 leases in Mahoning County since August, according to the Mahoning County Recorder’s Office.
Curtis Thomas, BP’s director of government and public affairs in Ohio, wrote in an email that more leasing activity in Columbiana County is a signal that BP’s goal is to continue developing its “material gas and liquids business in Ohio.”
“We’ve made it clear through newspaper advertisements that we are currently conducting land-title due diligence in Trumbull County as well as eight other counties in North and Southeast Ohio. Columbiana is one of those counties,” Thomas wrote.
Brown said Chesapeake Energy is Columbiana County’s largest stakeholder. When asked where BP was securing land in the county, he said it was hard to say by just glancing at the county’s leasing records, but Hanover Township remains a hotbed of activity there.
Traveling Monday, Thomas did not elaborate on where the company primarily was purchasing its mineral rights in the county.
Along with Harrison, Jefferson and Carroll counties, Columbiana has evolved as a sort of beachhead for eastern Ohio’s oil- and gas-exploration activities, ranked No. 2 in Ohio for well permits.
That concentration across a four-county swath finds most of the state’s producing, drilled and permitted wells.
Industry officials expect oil and gas activity across Columbiana County to remain steady.
“Once you find someone with wells producing at a certain rate in a particular area, that’s when you’ll see a pickup in activity,” said Dan Alfaro, a spokesman for the industry-outreach group Energy In-Depth. “Once a well is drilled, and those production numbers pick up, that’s when everyone begins flocking in.”