Fracking fades in Amish Ohio?

Energy companies are apparently losing enthusiasm for oil drilling in Ohio’s Utica Shale.  Oil in the Utica has proven more difficult than expected to extract, according to this article from Bloomberg:

U.S. drillers that set up rigs amid the rolling farmland of eastern Ohio on projections underground shale held $500 billion of oil are packing up.

Four of the biggest stakeholders in untapped deposits known as the Utica Shale have put up all or part of their acreage for sale, as prices fall by a third in some cases. Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) of Oklahoma City, the biggest U.S. shale lease owner, last week offered up 94,200 acres (38,121 hectares). EnerVest Ltd. and Devon Energy Corp. (DVN) are selling as early results show lower production than their predictions.

“The results were somewhat disappointing,” said Philip Weiss, an analyst with Argus Research in New York. Early data show “it’s not as good as we thought it was going to be.”

I sensed that energy around hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, had died down on my February trip to Holmes County.  I was told of how local landholders had banded together in landowners’ groups to create more leverage when dealing with the energy companies.

Fracking Ohio Amish
Amish wind energy extraction in Ohio

However at least one of the wells had not been as successful as hoped (the two locations I specifically heard of wells being drilled were the areas of Holmesville and Apple Creek).  Momentum for extraction in the area had sputtered over the previous half-year or so.  Supposedly the areas to the east, in Tuscarawas and Carroll Counties and beyond, continue to be more promising.

Gas is more accessible in the Utica, though “drillers frequently found the rock too dense and underground pressures insufficient to produce oil” (oil is more valuable and desired in the current market).  Does this mean an eventual end for fracking as an issue for Amish and others in the area?   Since much depends on technology and prices, perhaps not, though for the time being at least, “the rush to buy acreage has reversed.”

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    1. OldKat

      It's a pendulum

      … it swings back and forth; always has and probably always will. Things that “aren’t economical” today will be more so later. Things that are “sure fired” today fade away when they don’t work out as well as thought.

      I have just less than 32 years experience in the natural gas industry; with two years TO THE DAY left to go. Just during the time that I have been involved in it I have seen numerous projects come on line as “the” new rage, only to disappear just about as quickly. I have seen our “proved reserves” levels so low that it was projected that we literally had months of natural gas left only to see legislation changes and regulation that discourages development be lifted and suddenly there was a glut of natural gas on the market.

      We currently have “proved reserves” enough to last us well over a century. I take all of this with a grain of salt, because there are just too many moving pieces to know where we really, really stand. I suspect things are not much different on the oil side of the equation as well. Bottom line; if ALL THINGS FACTORED IN showed exploring and producing those areas to be profitable … they wouldn’t be letting the leases go. It apparently isn’t the case, so they are pulling out. This has happened hundreds of times all over the world; it is nothing new. Then again things may look completely different in 3,5,10 or even 20 years from now. Who knows?

      1. Oldkat, first, a big CONGRATS on closing out work. I remember you mentioned things were winding down. I guess this is good timing to get commentary from you while you are still an industry insider ;).

        You describe what was in the back of my mind while reading the Bloomberg article. I remember reading about how the tar sands in Canada were not profitable enough to really pursue, this was probably back in the early 2000s. Then I suppose either the technology improved, or the price, or both, and looks like it has boomed since. If/when the technology or market or regulation situation makes it viable we’ll probably be hearing more on this.

        1. OldKat


          Thanks for the kind words Erik. We are looking forward to traveling, hopefully doing some consultant work & just enjoying life.

          Hope to get some jobs lined up in Amish areas to kill two birds with one stone; pick up a few extra bucks & visit some Amish, too.

    2. Debbie

      Happy to hear the interest has faded, if only for a SHORT TIME. Is this good farm land? or is it perhaps only good for the developers? If it is the latter then there is really nothing to celebrate.

      1. Debbie if you mean the entire area, yes there is quite a bit of good farmland but also some less farmable areas as well. But the community covers a very large area taking in parts of 5 or 6 counties with some varying topographical features including some very hilly and wooded areas and some previously strip-mined areas.

    3. Carolyn

      This is off-topic, but do you plan on updating the information in “The Ten Largest Amish Communities in North America”? I noticed the article is from 2009. I would be interested to see if they are still the same or have changed. Thanks.

      1. I do Carolyn, thanks for mentioning it. Stay tuned.

    4. Alice Mary

      I’m glad the fracking flurry is dying down.

      Does anyone think there’s a chance of the Amish (or anyone) buying up some of that land for farming purposes? Just wondering…

      Alice Mary

    5. Margaret

      I sure hope so

      Lord if only. I am SSSOOOOOO against fracking. We wonder why their are such destructive earthquakes etc. it’s Mother Earth telling us to knock it off.

      I just believe there are other more ethical ways to make a living. Our here in the west the Dept of the Interior is wiping out all the wild horse herds to make room for big oil. Those wild and burros belong to ALL Americans by virtue of our taxes. It isn’t just the horses that leave. It’s everyone and everything. DOI selling out public lands and destroying public lands.

      It doesn’t stop there. Check those land deeds that the oil co’s. carry. If someone comes along and is able to develop the property–check those deeds for resources. Because out here in the west the resources FOREVER belong to oil co.’s.

      I hope as those oil co.’s leave the land is able to be restored. And people’s lives and health is restored. Glad for Ohio that this flattened out!