By Ed Runyan
As the Trumbull County commissioners prepare today to approve their fourth road use and maintenance agreement with a horizontal gas and oil driller, it’s becoming clear that there may be little horizontal drilling in the county right away.
Don Barzak, director of governmental affairs for Trumbull County Engineer Randy Smith, said talks with gas and oil companies indicate that even though they have permits for horizontal wells, the first wells are deep vertical wells being drilled for test purposes only.
“They’re going to drill it, frack it, and what it does is give them a chance to see what’s there, and they can come back later to drill horizontally,” Barzak said.
For example, Halcon Resources of Houston, which drilled the county’s first horizontal well off Hayes-Orangeville Road in Hartford Township early this month, told Barzak it plans to drill vertically, use hydraulic fracturing at the well, check the quality of the well, then drill another Trumbull County well.
The company has started to prepare the well pad for its second drilling location, off Brunstetter Road in Lordstown, and is expected to start drilling there next month. The company said it likewise will drill vertically into the Utica Shale, use hydraulic fracturing, check the results and then move on to another site, Barzak said.
The well on the commissioners’ agenda today is by Brammer Engineering Inc. of Shreveport, La.
Commissioners are expected to approve a road-use agreement with Brammer for a well site off Webber Cole Road in Kinsman Township.
The agreement is similar to the ones the county commissioners have approved with Halcon in recent weeks.
The agreements specify the road improvements and repairs the company will make to the roads it will use for transport of drilling rigs and other heavy equipment, and specify the roads it will use to serve the well.
The agreements also specify the road bonds and insurance the company will carry to protect the county.
Like Halcon, Brammer says it will drill its Kinsman well vertically, test the result and move on to another site. Brammer plans to bring a drilling rig to the site in mid-February, Barzak said.
“It’s more of a test case,” Barzak said of the wells Halcon and Brammer are working on early this year.
Meanwhile, Barzak said it won’t be long until his office will have its first road use and maintenance agreement for pipeline construction.
Barzak said companies working in concert with drilling companies have told the county engineer’s office that they will be ready soon to begin putting down the pipe to connect their wells to existing pipelines and existing wells so they can “get the product to market.”
The companies will put down pipe across leased acreage and cause damage to roads as they drill underneath them, Barzak said.
The road-use agreements for pipeline construction won’t require as much protection as drilling road-use agreements because the pipeline work won’t cause as much damage, Barzak said.
The amount of work associated with pipelines could end up “just as busy as the drilling,” Barzak noted, adding that the first pipeline road-use agreement is likely to be in place within three weeks.
Jack Simon, the county road-use agreement coordinator, started in the new job last week, but the workload associated with the agreements will require Barzak and Smith to continue to assist him, Barzak said.
“There’s no way one person could handle it all,” Barzak said. “It’ll be a team operation.”