JEROMESVILLE – With exploratory drilling of fracking wells underway in Ashland County, Cabot Oil & Gas has set up a local office in Jeromesville.
The Houston-based company marked the move with a ribbon cutting Monday at the newly leased office at 31 W. Main Street.
“We were looking for a central location where we could be able to interact with the community, and this was the perfect spot… A lot of people have questions, and we want to provide answers,” said George Stark, director of external affairs for Cabot’s north region.
The questions surround Cabot’s current activities and future plans in Ashland and surrounding counties.
The company is looking for fossil fuels– either oil or natural gas– below the Utica Shale formation. Cabot plans to drill at least five exploratory wells by the end of the year.
After drilling about a mile below the ground vertically and then about two miles horizontally, Cabot uses a process called hyraulic fracturing to extract the fuels. The process involves pumping water, sand and additives into the well bore, forcing fluids into perforations in the well. That causes fractures in the rock formation which allow trapped gas to flow.
Cabot has already drilled its first well in Green Township and plans to begin hydraulic fracturing there by the end of the month. Drilling will begin soon on a second well in Mohican Township, and a pad for a third well is being constructed in Vermillion Township.
Stark indicated his company should know around the end of the year whether it intends to keep drilling in the area.
“The opportunity to have an office here is us anticipating a longer engagement,” he said. “Right now we’re still in the exploratory phase.”
Stark described the new office as clearinghouse for information as well as a location for the company to hold meetings with landowners. The office is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Cabot also takes questions on the Ask Cabot section of its website, www.cabotog.com/ask-cabot.
“The hope would be that between this office and the electronic opportunity, that we’re as transparent as possible, so that if you have questions regarding your land or the process, there’s a way to get that information,” Stark said.
Stark acknowledged Cabot’s activities have been met with skepticism among individuals in the community as well as criticism from environmental groups, like Tri-County Landowners Coalition and Hayesville Community on Fracked Gas.
“We ask everyone to get the full story, to look at how energy impacts their daily lives and to really study how it can be done professionally,” Stark said in response. “Look wide at how that happens and understand the importance energy plays in Ohio’s lifeblood.”
Stark added that his company intends to use local contractors and employ as many local people as possible, and he expects any discovery of oil and gas to lead to lower energy bills in the region.
Jeromesville Mayor Randy Spade said the village welcomes any new business and is glad to have Cabot’s office in Jeromesville. The office, which most recently was a PNC Bank branch, has sat vacant about four years.
“This was the last vacant building in our downtown area,” Spade said.
Loudonville Mohican Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Valerie Spreng also welcomed Cabot to the area, and Ashland Area Economic Development Executive Director Kathy Goon described Cabot’s operations as “a continuation of the economic growth and activity we’re seeing.”
“We had Rover Pipeline, we had Utopia and now Cabot Oil,” she said. “The residual and ancillary stuff that comes off what they’re doing here is going to be great for consumer spending, for retail, for restaurants.”