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Why are helicopters always flying over property in parts of Mahoning and Mercer counties?

Published: Mon, April 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Why are helicopters always flying over property in parts of Mahoning and Mercer counties?

Although leasing has been under way in this part of the state for sometime now, drilling operations in the region are scant.

Helicopters are enlisted by exploration and production companies to assist in seismic testing, which helps operators discover where oil and gas resources are located.

Helicopters facilitate fast and efficient movement of materials and equipment to areas that would otherwise be hard to reach with large vibrator trucks or on foot, especially with the equipment required to conduct seismic testing.

Even in areas that are easily accessible, a seismic survey requires consistency over a broad swath of land, meaning inaccessible land will still need to be accessed.

First, a small 12-foot-by-4-foot drilling rig is delivered by helicopter, attached to the end of a 160-foot cable. It is carefully lowered into position and untethered by ground crews.

A 20- to 40-foot bore is drilled, and a small charge of explosives is set in the hole.

The helicopter picks up the drill and moves it to the next drilling position. This is repeated until a grid patter of charge-filled holes, often 50 per square mile, is created.

Afterward, radio signals trigger the charges to create the reflection of sound waves.

Heavy orange bags also are dropped in these areas.

They contain other equipment that ground crews often can’t transport because of the weight.

Sometimes, 30 to 40 bags full of equipment can be dropped in an hour, depending on the nature of the project.

Can you tell me when Chesapeake will start drilling in Poland Township?

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Chesapeake Energy does not have any permits to drill in Poland Township, but it holds leases there. During a fourth-quarter earnings call with investors in February, the company gave an update of its Utica operations. Thus far, it has drilled 184 wells in the Utica Shale, with 45 of those producing. Currently, Chesapeake is the top driller in Ohio.

During its conference call, company officials said they were operating 14 drilling rigs in Ohio, with plans to average the same amount in 2013, mostly in the southeastern part of the state.

Chesapeake has curbed some of its drilling operations in parts of Pennsylvania due to low natural-gas prices. Chances the company will pursue a permit to drill in Poland Township in the near future are slim.

Hilcorp Energy Co., however, has purchased extensive land rights in both Mercer and Mahoning counties. In Mercer County alone, in February, 965 leases were obtained, many by Hilcorp. The company already has drilled a well in Poland and has permitted another site to move forward with drilling soon.

According to ODNR records, Hilcorp is the only company with drilling permits in Poland. Other companies hold land rights but have not yet applied to drill.

Questions about shale development or the fracking

process can be sent to news@shalesheet.com.

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