Published October 16, 2012
There are many places around the world situated above major shale plays. Most are not densely populated. In locations where human population levels are small, there is usually a lack of housing for rig workers and other related on-site employees. Because the oil and natural gas industry requires a large number of on-site workers in the extraction process, it has often been necessary to create so-called “man camps” to provide the temporary housing in these scarcely populated places. One of the most widely publicized of these make-shift cities is in Williston, North Dakota. Over the course of a year or so, this sleepy little town was turned into a bustling boom town. The rate of residential development could not keep pace with the number of workers needed by the industry. This resulted in the development of a number of “man camps” and has changed the locals’ living experience dramatically.
If one looks at a map of drilling permits in Eastern Ohio, it quickly becomes evident that Carrollton is ground zero for the many companies looking to extract from the Utica Shale. In fact, the map is dotted with hundreds of existing and proposed well sites. This area of the state has previously experienced a very rural life style and thus has very little to no extra housing or hotel space. In fact, a quick search for a hotel room in the area shows that one must stay in surrounding communities of Uhrichsville, Alliance, Canton, North Canton, Lisbon, New Philadelphia, or Bolivar. Each of these cities is miles from the actual drilling sites. The closest is a 45 minute drive to Carrollton. After studying the logistics of this, I started to wonder if we might be getting our very own man camp in Eastern, Ohio as the industry boom heats up.
Two weeks ago, my in-laws asked us to meet them at an outdoor theatre in Chillicothe, Ohio. By the way, the show was named “Tecumseh” and was outstanding. I highly recommend it for anyone who has children in the early teen years and is not squeamish about mixing a little violence with their historic entertainment. I had often heard tales of greatly increased traffic in the area where drilling occurs. Much to the chagrin of my wife, I took this opportunity to turn the trip from Northeast Ohio to Southwest Ohio into a little exploration of the area between Carrollton and Cadiz. Although, I immediately noticed more traffic than usual heading south on State Route 11 that part of the trip was efficient and enjoyable. Once we turned west on SR22, I experienced some startling traffic events worthy of note. Not once, but three times, I was directed off to the side of the rode by Ohio State Troopers who were leading the way for over-sized loads of industrial trailers. These were the kinds of trailers used as office space or perhaps a unit of a “man camp”. Then there was the six mile stretch of SR285 where I found us trapped on an old horse path behind a semi pulling a bull dozer, following a brine removal truck, following some kind of delivery truck. All of these vehicles were then following and Amish horse and buggy.
The ODNR and EPA got together earlier this year and proactively created regulations in the event “man camps” are created in Ohio. I, for one, am wondering if they are already under construction somewhere in the vicinity of Carrollton, or whether they are soon to come. Keep posted to this column for future investigations.