Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator,
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association hosted its 69th annual Winter Meeting in Columbus on March 16th – March 18th which brought together hundreds of attendees including membership and top industry leaders from Ohio and the nation to provide the most current updates of the state’s oil and gas industry.
The first day was considered a day of “pre-meeting events,” where OOGA’s Executive Committee and Board of Trustees convened; continuing to work towards improving the Association. The Ohio Geological Society held its annual meeting that brought in a large crowd to hear Joseph Smith with PDC Energy present on the Determination of Wellbore Orientation in the Utica Shale of Southeast Ohio. Evening receptions followed on day one and two that allowed for attendees to network and the Association to thank attendees for their support.
The next two days held the main events including updates from national authorities, state and federal elected officials, and included production, exploration, legal and legislative insights. The keynote speaker for this year was David Wasserman, U.S. House editor and quantitative election analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, where he is responsible for handicapping and analyzing U.S. House races. Wasserman provided stirring insight on the current presidential primary results, road mapping potential likelihoods of candidate’s winning nominations and charting how winning the White House would be achieved. He provided a humorous approach to understanding how Donald Trump has been able to ride a wave of discontentment with the established Republican Party to become the lead nominee. The information was extremely timely, relevant and looked at the presidential nomination process, impacts on senate races and the potential of a contested republican primary.
While the business session presentations were occurring the other component of the Winter Meeting was simultaneously taking place right outside the presentations in the form of an industry trade show. This year the Association had more than 70 exhibitor booths displaying products, demonstrating new equipment techniques, and representing multifaceted components of the industry. As attendees came and went and transitioned between business sessions, they could engage with exhibitors showcasing the latest in oil and gas technology.
And of course this event would not be possible without our sponsors. Even during trying times for the industry we appreciate the support from each and every one of you.
The Association hopes to see each of you back at next year’s 70th annual Winter Meeting.
Posted By Penny Seipel, Vice President of Public Affairs,
Monday, March 14, 2016
You may have seen recent headlines about a court case involving Cabot Oil and Gas in Pennsylvania. The case was brought by two families, Scott and Monica Ely and Ray and Victoria Hubert. There were three parts to the original lawsuit: personal injury and fraud, reduction of property values and nuisance claims which stemmed from the finding of the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (DEP) that Cabot oil and gas was responsible for contaminating some water wells because of faulty well casing. The plaintiffs allege that faulty well casing allowed natural gas to migrate into water wells.
The parts of the lawsuit pertaining to personal injury and property values were thrown out by the judge for lack of evidence. As it relates to the lowering of property values, the judge found that property values had actually gone up.
The third issue, the nuisance claim, is more complicated because Pennsylvania law includes a “presumption of liability”. This means that the company is presumed to be responsible for any well contamination within 1,000 feet from a drilling site regardless of whether the company was actually at fault. It is the company’s responsibility to prove in court that they are not liable. The DEP had previously determined that Cabot was responsible for the presence of dissolved methane in some families’ water wells. Even though a Consent Order and Agreement was signed by the DEP and Cabot, Cabot disagreed with the determination that its activities caused the contamination.
In spite of Cabot’s vigorous defense, on March 10, 2016, a jury found that the company was guilty of the nuisance violation and awarded the two families a combined $4.2 million.
In 2010, Ohio passed Senate Bill 165 which made significant upgrades to the state’s oil and gas regulatory laws. One very important change included more stringent well casing standards for the industry. The bill required additional strings of steel casing and proper cement to protect underground sources of drinking water. Inspectors from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources must also be notified when the cement is being set.
Additional protections were put in place in 2012 when the legislature passed Senate Bill 315, which required water well testing within 1,500 feet of a horizontal well before drilling takes place.
While regulations can’t predict every unforeseen circumstance, Ohio’s oil and gas regulatory framework is considered one of the most comprehensive in the nation.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator,
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
The OOGA 69th annual Winter Meeting is quickly approaching. The event will bring together the membership and top industry leaders from Ohio and across the nation to provide the most current updates regarding the oil and gas industry. Attendees will hear from state and federal elected officials and nationally accredited speakers. Topics will include production, exploration, legal and legislative updates.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER David Wasserman House Editor, Political Analyst David Wasserman is the U.S. House editor and quantitative election analyst of the non-partisan Cook Political Report,where he is responsible for handicapping and analyzing the U.S. House races.
Company Donations Top $13,000 for Local, Regional Food Banks, Pantries
Marietta, OH – At a recognition event today hosted by Antero Resources, the company honored a set of local food bank and pantry representatives for their continued efforts to reduce hunger. Volunteers from Belmont, Guernsey, Monroe, Noble and Washington Counties received more than $13,000 in donations from Antero and its employees, supporting 16 separate charitable organizations. Locally, Antero donated to, Robert T. Seacrest Senior Center, Living Water Fellowship, Pleasant City Food Pantry, St. Vincent De Paul, Guernsey, Monroe, Noble (GMN) Tri County Community Action, Samaritan House, and Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio (LSS) Food Pantry.
“Antero and our dedicated employees are proud to be a partner in combating local hunger in the communities where we live and operate,” said Al Schopp, Antero’s Chief Administrative Officer and Regional Senior Vice President. “Our efforts in alleviating food access issues across the Appalachian Basin mark our unwavering commitment to the many local families in need of this critical resource.”
“I am happy to be here to benefit from the generosity of Antero,” said Linda Hall, Executive Director, Pleasant City Food Pantry. “We did not go looking for this donation; they found us. On behalf of the pantry visitors, we want to say thank you to Antero, as we rely solely on donations.
“It’s a different experience to have a company seek us out for a donation,” said Misty Decker, Executive Director Lutheran Social Services of Central Ohio. “It is nice to be recognized. We don’t realize sometimes the light that we are to our own clients on a daily basis.”
“I am supportive of the work Antero is doing in our region,” said Gary Ricer, CEO, Guernsey, Monroe, Noble (GMN) Tri-County Community Action. “GMN is proud to be a recipient of these much needed funds of which 100% will go toward the senior services food bank. Generous donations like these really go a long way as we distribute several tons of food per month to the community. This will be helpful and huge to our cause.”
In line with its core commitments aimed at improving the communities where it works, Antero places a high-level of value on employee volunteerism.
“Community involvement and giving back are central to our culture at Antero. I am thankful to work for a company that not only values but also encourages local volunteerism.” said Randall Randolph, Antero’s Surface Land Manager.
# # #
Antero Resources (NYSE:AR) is an independent natural gas and oil company engaged in the acquisition, development and production of unconventional liquids-rich natural gas properties, as well as water logistics located in the Appalachian Basin in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Antero is the most active operator of oil and gas exploration and production in the Marcellus and Utica Shale. Visit www.anteroresources.comto learn more and connect with Antero on Twitter (@AnteroResources) and Facebook:www.facebook.com/AnteroResources.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator,
Monday, February 29, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2016
The member spotlight series features legacy OOGA members who have been a member of the Association for at least 10 years. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Miller was born in Gilmer county West Virginia; his family moved to Windham (Portage County Ohio) when he was two years old. He graduated from a small town high school in a class of 80 students. John’s father always had aspirations of being a schoolteacher, as many of the Millers in West Virginia were, but decided to forgo college and moved to Ohio for employment to support his wife and five children. As the middle child and only boy in the family, John was active in high school sports—wrestling, gymnastics, and track—and had a superb group of coaches that inspired him to also want to become a teacher and coach.
Following his high school graduation in 1966, John worked for a year to save money for college. In 1967 John enrolled in Kent State University to pursue a teaching degree. After three quarters at KSU John ran out of money and left the university to go back to work and save more. During these times it was easy to get a job and John was offered a position at Wheeling-Pittsburg Steel located in Warren, Ohio. Following his decision to leave college John was drafted into the United States Army and began serving in September 1968, in the wake of the Tet Offensive.
After being drafted John was convinced he would be deployed to Vietnam where most new recruits were being sent. However, he was not sent to Vietnam but rather to Heidelberg Germany where he was part of the 529th MP Honor Guard unit, and as he put it, “I got to march around Germany for two years.” He said “going to the military was one of the best things to happen in my life with the most important thing being accepting Jesus Christ as my savior and marring my wife Carol”. The military matured him and brought him back to the U.S. a different person.
Following his military time abroad, John returned to KSU to finish his degree while working full time at Wheeling-Pittsburg Steel. During this time he married his wife Carol in 1974 and had his first child, Jonathan in July 1975. It was also during this time that he came to the realization that teaching jobs were scares and that majoring in business would be more practical. In 1975 he graduated from KSU with an accounting degree and was recruited right out of school.
John’s career aspirations were to start working, become a CPA, and transition into industry. He was hired by a small CPA firm in Beachwood Ohio and had his own clients within six months, gaining great experience. He work at the CPA firm from 1975 to 1977 because two years public accounting experience was needed to become certified. John passed the CPA exams in 1977. Because he was working so many hours as a CPA he had little time to pursue a job in industry, as a result John left the CPA firm without having a job, all while expecting his second child, Angela.
His next position was working as a tax analyst for Premier Industries located in Cleveland, Ohio, however he didn’t see much professional opportunity within the company. In the fall of 1977 John was analyzing an offering for one of the Belden & Blake Corporation partnerships for the Mandel brothers (Premier’s primary owners). During that analysis a recruiter informed him of an opening for an accountant at an oil and gas company located in North Canton, Ohio, Belden & Blake Corporation.
Work History Overview:
Belden & Blake narrowed their search to two candidates, John and another person, who did not have public accounting experience and was asking for less money. Belden & Blake’s treasure Mary Thomson would make the final hiring decision. Fortunately for John, Henry “Chic” Belden was prepared to purchase the company from the current owners Henry S. Belden III and Glenn Blake. Marty deliberated with Chic who told him to hire the CPA.
John started working for Belden & Blake in November 1977, which launched his career into the oil and gas industry. The company at that time had a production accountant on staff, and John was hired as the only general accountant.
“Shortly after Chic acquired the company, he hired C. Richard Cox (Dick Cox) who I would consider my mentor. Dick was a brilliant man, a perfectionist and a great teacher. He expected nothing but the best from all his staff. He pushed me hard, and as a result made me a better communicator, writer, analyst and better at budgeting and cash flowing. I give Dick Cox a lot of credit for any success I have had in my career.”
Every month John prepared a 50-60 page financial analysis of Belden & Blake for Dick and together they would spend hours reviewing it. John recalled once having a present tense on page 5 and a past tense on page 13 and Dick would say, “John, you’re killing me! You have to be consistent!” With Dick you had to be consistent, he demanded excellence. John had many praises about working for Chic Belden and Dick Cox and has great respect for both men.
“I worked at Belden & Blake for 10 years and during that time earned a MBA from Kent State University. When I left I was corporate controller and managed 21 people and three accounting managers. Belden & Blake was comprised of several entities including an international company and a SEC reporting company which gave me great opportunities to learn. I traveled to London several times to set up an office. I had a wonderful work experience.”
A former executive at Belden & Blake left the company to consult for Alliance Petroleum Corporation and operate wells on their behalf. John was recruited by that executive to work for Alliance Petroleum in the fall of 1987. John felt he would always be a middle manager if he stayed at Belden & Blake so he decided to submit his resignation to Chic Belden. Chic advised John that Alliance was a struggling company and might not survive.
Alliance was headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia where John interviewed. He thought the company had great future plans. Retrospectively, John described Alliance as being comprised of three small struggling companies that were syndicating drilling programs. An attorney convinced the owners of those companies to align themselves to form one larger struggling company. Alliance had little cash flow, a lot of debt, and did not have an operating arm. In December of 1987 they bought Ohio L&M Co, Inc., located in Marietta Ohio which provided them with an operating team. John was recruited to serve as CFO of Ohio L&M.
“So I left Belden & Blake for Alliance, and Chic was right, they were not going to make it, it was pretty bad. The folks at Alliance had great plans; the problem was that they were not ready to execute those plans. They had no accounting system, and no viable strategic plan. They had ideas but no plan to get it done.”
John spent all of 1988 working in Marietta and living in the Lafayette hotel. The directors of Alliance soon realized the company was going in the wrong direction and began restructuring. By mid 1988 the process of closing the Atlanta office had begun and by the end of 1988 all the former principles were no longer with the company. The president of Ohio L&M was promoted to president of Alliance and John became the CFO of Alliance. In a matter of months John went from being CFO of the operating company to CFO of the parent company. In December of 1988 the company was nearly bankrupt, they moved the headquarters to Canton and started hiring staff.
John said he hired an outstanding group in Canton which greatly contributed to the success of Alliance. He hired Dora Silvis as his accounting clerk; she was greatly needed for the position but he also recognized that she was highly over qualified. In 1991 the company restructured again and John was promoted to president & CEO and Dora was promoted to vice president. Marty Miller, Vice President of Operations was another important member of the management team as was Steve Nicholson who managed the Ohio L&M northern field.
John started restructuring Alliance’s debt in 1988 and 1989, and at the same time determined that in an effort to generate more income and cash flow Alliance needed to expand its production through acquisitions and drilling. During 1993-1996 Alliance drilling 2 to 5 well programs. In the late 1990s John started raising money through brokerage firms. In the early 2000s they had success drilling some of their best wells and gained increased access with those firms. In 2006 Alliance Petroleum was the number one driller in Ohio. The company operated approximately 1,700 wells during this time period.
In the height of its drilling success Alliance started looking for an exit strategy and began marketing the company in 2007 because the price of oil and gas was peaking at this time. In 2008 the market crashed, as did the price of oil and gas, greatly slashing the market value of Alliance and as a result the company suspended its marketing effort.
Along came the Utica, which provided another marketing opportunity for the company. Alliance had built up a massive leasing program by raising money through brokerage firms and drilling wells, much of that acreage covered the Utica shale. In late 2011 they started marketing the company again. Interest in the Utica play was still early, but they saw it as an opportunity to sell the company and provide a return for their shareholders. Management’s plans were to sell the deep rights and find a buyer for the stock. They were able to sell the company’s “deep rights” to larger companies interested in the shale play and in January 2012 sold the stock of the company to Lake Fork Resources owned by Tom Wright. The stock sale provided an opportunity for the employees of Alliance to keep their jobs which was a priority for John when negotiating the sale.
“I loved the people I worked with at Alliance, I loved the job, it was my life for 25 years. I was in mourning for months after I left Alliance. But you would have to drag me back at this point.”
John started AIM Energy LLC in 2007. He had interest in some wells along with friends and used that interest to form AIM Energy. AIM Energy operates about 80 wells; some wells John and his partners owned and others were acquired. “I do all the administrative work and my two partners are field oriented so they operate and manage the wells, pipelines and compressors. It keeps me in the industry and I’m still a producer. I love the industry and I and want to stay involved in oil & gas and OOGA as long as I can.”
John came up with a slogan while he was at Alliance, “Vision alone is no solution, success depends on execution. And that’s what we did with the company. The employees of Alliance executed, they performed with excellence (as Dick Cox taught me early in my career) and that made all the difference”.
History with the OOGA:
John became involved with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association when he started working for Ohio L&M in 1988. The first meeting he attended was the Summer Meeting and he came back to the Winter Meeting the following year. He hasn’t missed many meetings since then and feels that OOGA is a great organization and wants to stay involved as a member.
“I can’t remember going to a Winter Meeting held by OOGA while I was president and CEO of Alliance that I didn’t do a deal. Besides all the training the meetings give us, you get to network with people you don’t see very often. We were always buying and selling and discussing drilling programs at that event.”
John began to get involved with the Association during the Tom Stewart era. Tom encouraged John’s involvement and a president’s appointment was used to put John on the board, John was elected thereafter. In 2002 he was appointed to the executive committee, where he served through 2008. Today he remains on the board and hopes to be reelected when his seat is up again next year so that he can remain involved. In addition to serving on the board of trustees and executive committee, John was previously involved with the government affairs committee, was PAC chairman for over six years and is currently on the audit committee.
“The great thing about the industry is all of the relationships. It is truly full of fantastic people and I’ve made some great relationships over the years. I can’t imagine any oil and gas state that would have a better organization than the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.”
New information has surfaced on how its research was funded. Based on this, the university is obligated to do more to publicize the study’s findings.
For those getting up to speed on the story, Energy In Depth posted a short clip [full video] from the University of Cincinnati’s Dr. Amy Townsend-Small’s presentation to local Ohio hydraulic fracturing opponents along with some key findings about hydraulic fracturing’s safety:
“All the samples fell within the clean water range and they did not find any changes over time either in any of our homes during the time series of fracking.”
“We never saw a significant increase in methane concentration after fracking well was drilled.”
Samples that were collected that were high in methane “clearly did not have a natural gas source.”
“Some of our highest observed methane concentrations were not near a fracking well at all.”
“There was no significant change in methane concentration over time, even as more and more natural gas wells were drilled in the area.”
Unfortunately Townsend-Small said her team’s research won’t be publicized further because the study’s funders stopped supporting them because of they didn’t like the findings.
“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Townsend-Small told the audience. “They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”
No press releases, no research papers, and no data released for the public or other researchers to dig deeper.
That’s not just disappointing; it looks to be in violation of the grant the University of Cincinnati used to fund its research.
The premise of the research project was to see what effects hydraulic fracturing has on drinking water by testing wells before, during, and after fracturing took place.
This innovative research study is examining the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on groundwater in Ohio's Utica shale. Led by UC geologist Amy Townsend Small, this first-of-a-kind project is testing for the presence of methane (the primary component of natural gas) and its origins in groundwater and drinking water wells before, during, and after the onset of fracking.
Water samples were tested using a stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer to determine the source of methane found in the water. As Inside Climate News explained in a 2014 story:
Each sample is tested for methane, the main component of natural gas. Townsend-Small's lab uses isotopic analysis to "fingerprint" the methane to determine if it's "biogenic methane" (produced by microbes, and unrelated to natural gas drilling) or "fossil fuel methane" (methane found in oil, gas and coal deposits).
The NSF grant’s mandate states unequivocally that findings gleaned from using the instrument be made publically available:
Results from research projects using this instrumentation will be disseminated through student and faculty presentations at national and international scientific meetings, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and online data repositories.
The University of Cincinnati should hold up its end and add to the public’s knowledge of hydraulic fracturing’s safety. With so much misinformation being pushed by hydraulic fracturing opponents, a short presentation in front of a few people in southeast of Canton, Ohio doesn’t cut it.
Posted By Brian Hickman, Director of Government Affairs,
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The unexpected and untimely passing of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia will create a ripple effect on our nation’s government in several ways.
First, the make-up of the Court will take on a new look. With Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court leaned conservative, with a general voting bloc of 5 conservative justices to 4 liberal justices. Without Scalia, and arguably without the prominent voice of the conservative bloc (Scalia was known for writing colorful opinions on landmark cases), the conservatives are now even at best with the liberal bloc. I say even at best because conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy often takes a more liberal stance on cases. You could state that the liberal bloc would have the upper hand in several upcoming cases to be determined by the Supreme Court because of this tendency.
Secondly, the new look Court does and will have several major policy initiatives before it. Cases pertaining to voting rights, affirmative action, and labor unions were already heard. The Court is scheduled to hear cases regarding abortion, contraception coverage, President Barack Obama’s health care plan and immigration policies as well this session (which ends this June).
For the oil and gas industry, litigation on a number of issues continues to work their way through various courts which may ultimately end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Issues such as challenges to the expansion of “waters of the United States” via rule for the Clean Water Act, challenges to emissions standards under the Clean Air Act, and additional litigation from environmental interests challenging species protection plans under the Endangered Species Act are all currently being litigated in lower courts.
Finally, this temporary vacancy in the Supreme Court could put a higher standard on lower court cases. Procedurally, if a case being heard in the US Supreme Court were to end in a 4-4 decision, then the decision made in the lower court would hold legal precedent for that jurisdiction. For example, if a decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Justices ended up with a 4-4 decision, then that decision would be the legal precedent in the 4 states within the Sixth Circuit, including Ohio.
The focus of this blog has only been on what will happen during the remainder of the current session of the Supreme Court. This doesn’t consider President Obama’s ability to appoint another Justice to the Supreme Court - which he has declared his intention to do. If he attempts to do so, the Republican controlled U.S. Senate (who must approve such an appointment) has already stated they would block it. Their reasoning is that a new President will be elected and that person (along with the American people) should have a say in the next justice. If this appointment lingers, it is expected to set a new record for the modern era, which was a 363 day vacancy due to a resignation in May, 1969. This unfortunately tragedy will add even more weight and flavor to the ongoing Presidential debates and election this year.
Posted By Mike Chadsey, Director of Public Relations,
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Last week, the Concerned Citizens of Carroll County held a public meeting in the Village of Carrollton to reveal the results of a three-year long study conducted in order to determine if natural gas drilling has had an effect on the quality of water coming from the wells in Carroll County. The Ohio Oil and Gas Association, national group Energy In Depth and other industry folks have attended the meetings over the years to listen to the guest speakers, talk with the media and see the concerns over what is happening in the area.
On this particular night, the guest speaker was a Dr. Amy Townsend-Small a geologist from the University of Cincinnati. Amy and her team had been in the area over the past 3 years testing private water wells to determine if thermogenic methane was present (the kind of methane found in natural gas). The project was funded from two foundations providing grants; one was the Deer Creek Foundation in St. Louis and the other was the Alice Weston foundation from Cincinnati. They have since cut off funding but more on that in a minute. The idea of the study was to take baseline water well testing before much, or in some instances any drilling had taken place in the area near the water wells.
Over the course of the study, which included taking almost 200 samples from 23 water wells in 5 counties, it was reported that natural gas development has had no effect on the water quality. Amy spoke with the local Times Reporter after the meeting and said:
“The good news is that our study did not document that fracking was directly linked to water contamination.”
This was not an unexpected result considering the many studies which have previously come to the same conclusion, including the US Environmental Protection Agency. Having been to many forums like this over the last few years, one never knows how the reactions to positive results will be received. It was shortly after Dr. Townsend-Small released that statement that a pin drop on the carpet would have been overheard. The silence was so obvious that even the leader of the group Mr. Paul Feezel said:
“You all are very quiet tonight.”
I am sure the residents were happy to hear the great news but one did get the impression that they were somehow disappointed. We are sure the residents in these counties will stay vigilant but since the water well testing results have been conducted and verified by an outside source perhaps they won’t be as skeptical of information letting them know that oil and gas development can happen safely in their community.
It was clear from Dr. Townsend-Small that the residents did a have problem with biogenic methane but not thermogenic. She did a great job during her presentation explaining the difference and how they could test for the 2 in her lab back on campus.
Let’s take a look back at the previous comment about funding. It was made clear that the study has run out of money for testing and promotion of the results, but they are still looking for additional funding sources. On the same point during the question and answer session, someone from the audience asked if the university was going to publicize the results of the study, Dr. Townsend-Small has this to say:
“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”
I guess in this case, good news will travel slow, but at the end of the evening after all of the talk, debate and questions, the facts remain the same, water in Carroll County and the surrounding areas have not been negatively impacted by natural gas development.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator,
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
The member spotlight series features legacy OOGA members who have been a member of the Association for at least 10 years. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven email@example.com
Mark Lytle was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Ohio (a small town just south of Wooster) and grew up wanting to become a game warden. Mark had a short stint at a technical school in Zanesville to pursue this ambition that didn’t last long.
Mark’s father worked as a schoolteacher and his mother was a radiology technician. His brother, Skip, and twin uncles, Dean and Gene Smith, worked in the oil and gas business at this time, prompting his interest. Going a completely different direction in his career path, Mark started working for Dowell out of Wooster in 1975.
Dowell was Mark’s first experience in the fracking business and introduced him to many new experiences. He was willing to take on new opportunities as they became available within Dowell.
“When I was at Dowell I wasn’t married, and if somebody said go somewhere I had my hand up. I was fortunate enough to go to the Alaskan North Slope and Laredo, Texas on the Mexican border.”
Mark worked at Dowell for three years gaining experience in the industry, learning a lot from Rick Carter, who would become a close friend and mentor. Across the street from Dowell, Buckeye Oil Producing Co. was building a new warehouse. Skip and one of his uncles were working for Buckeye at the time and in 1978 Mark also got a job at Buckeye Oil Producing. He started out driving truck and would sit in on the handful of wells being drilled by Buckeye because of the experience he gained from working at Dowell.
Skip was the field superintendent at Buckeye around this time, but left the company soon after Mark started working there. Mark inherited some of his responsibilities and managed to work his way up over the years. Throughout the years Mark sporadically worked with his uncles, which he found to be very helpful drawing on their knowledge. Starting with the company more than 37 years ago, Mark worked his way up to vice president, president, and served as the CEO of Buckeye Oil Producing since 2005. Mark “semi-retired” from Buckeye in 2013 but remains active managing the production in West Virginia and southern Kansas operations.
Buckeye Oil Producing Overview:
The founder of Buckeye Oil Producing was R.K. Shoolroy, who got into the oil and gas business in the 1960s in Wooster, Ohio by owning retail gasoline stations. The office space that Buckeye currently occupies in Wooster was one of the first gas stations that Mr. Shoolroy owned. In the 1960s crude oil supply was starting to get short and Mr. Shoolroy sold off some of his gas stations to Ashland Oil. Always thinking ahead, Mr. Shoolroy went out and bought some of his own crude oil production so that he could take his crude oil to the refinery and trade it for gasoline, in order to keep his remaining gas stations open. He got into the production side with the goal of keeping the gas stations running. Mr. Shoolroy found that he liked the production side better and got out of the gasoline station business to start Buckeye Oil Producing.
Buckeye started out with only a couple of well and over the years have grown greatly. Starting off in Ohio, the company grew primarily through acquisitions with the philosophy of buying existing production. When production began getting more challenging to purchase in Ohio, the company started its own drilling programs and drilled some wells for themselves. Today they continue to drill their own wells and have grown outside of Ohio. With approximately 500 wells, and 20 employees working for the company, Buckeye has come a long way from where it started.
“Buckeye was always very thrifty, even in the slow times, which we kind of liked actually, because you could make better buys. Today that’s not the case.”
Buckeye is an independent company that primarily drills their own wells. Lytle says they have partnered with a lot the good, older generation companies in Ohio. The majority of the wells operated by Buckeye are conventional wells in the Clinton, Berea and Knox formations.
“In 1983 we branched out of Ohio and purchased property in West Virginia. We kept that until 1996 and sold it off due to plugging liabilities. In 2000, we went back to West Virginia which has been a lucrative expansion. We’re not just a little company; we’ve expanded into seven states over the last 15 years.”
In 2003 Buckeye was integral in starting a consortium made up of four companies looking to grow drilling operations.
“We saw a lot of companies in Ohio and not a lot of good locations to drill. We felt that in order to grow our companies we’re going to need to get out of Ohio. We all pulled together and hired a geologist based in Colorado. We ended up drilling in Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Texas. We learned a lot and met a lot of interesting people.”
The consortium still exists today with three participating companies. They still work together on projects and have found success drilling in Kansas and are currently drilling in Colorado.
“The direction that we’ve gone in the past 5 years or so is drilling for oil. All of our drilling prospects must have good oil potential before we would drill. Anything we drill now has to be primarily oil.”
Mark’s intrigue in outside ventures has led Buckeye to become somewhat diversified over the years. They have always owned some real estate, but have gotten into investing in high-tech start up ideas. A group of people in Akron was recently looking to develop replacement disc for a spine and Lytle became one of the investors. Buckeye helps to providing funding to get the project up and in the start phase, with the end goal of selling them off. Other entities also include a hydraulic shop business, and tool and die plant.
“It’s interesting. If I get bored in the oil business, I can go somewhere else. I guess I’ve always been intrigued by new technologies. Some of the ideas we used in the oilfields weren’t the smartest or best ideas in the world, but I’ve tried a lot of different ones. Getting involved in these outside ventures has been an interesting distraction as the oil business slows a little bit.”
Horizontal drilling and state of the industry:
Buckeye Oil isn’t doing any shale work and farmed out its shale acreage. Lytle says they did this over five years ago when the shale play was just beginning. They sold off acreage and took a decent offer early on.
The nice thing about horizontal and deep shale drilling is that companies are bringing new technology and a willingness to try new techniques in the industry. Some of the technology can be adapted to different drilling projects, like the Clinton and Berea sandstones, which Mark has been involved with.
“Some day you will see a handful of producers go together and drill horizontally. We’ve talked about it with some producers. But right now, with these prices, no one could get excited about horizontal drilling. I still think that horizontal drilling in the Clinton has some merit and we could see a little of that in Ohio. We need to see at least $60 a barrel before anyone can get remotely excited about it. Buckeye will remain mostly conventional, for now.”
Mark has watched the play and seen the deep shale lines move around, drawing big companies to come to work in Ohio in the last years. He says the only prayer for the independents is to watch and learn.
“On the shale side of things, I think there’s going to be a spot someday, a window, where independent producers can go in and do it. But boy, the sad part about it is that’s years away now, not as close as we originally had thought.”
“I’ve been in the industry a number of years and I’ve seen a lot of highs and lows. But today it’s a completely different low. It’s going to last longer. When we come out of this, if you’re not a little more savvy on what you do, your conventional Clinton wells aren’t going to bail you out like they have in the past. Even with an up-tick in prices all it’s going to do is prolong the agony of the companies and it’s not going to bail everyone out. Smaller guys are going to have to look at some of the unconventional ways of horizontal drilling in order for a company to survive. You’re not going to be sitting on these Clinton wells and produce them like we’ve all previously done to make a good living. This time it’s a different low, I think, and it’s longer lasting.”
History with the OOGA:
Lytle has been a long time member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, spanning nearly 30 years. He joined when he started working for Buckeye Oil Producing, who has been involved with OOGA since 1961.
Jeff Baker suggested to Mark that he run to be on the board of Trustees. He said that it could take a few tries in order for Mark to actually be elected. Lytle was elected after his first attempt. Lytle has been an OOGA board member since 1978.
Mark initially got his feet wet with OOGA committees back when he was on the insurance committee. Lytle described working with Berman Shaffer, Bill Musselman and Allen Jones and some of the issues that this committee dealt with. He learned a little about the insurance business, but a lot about the oil and gas industry’s early days.
Mark was involved with a few other committees following the insurance committee but reflects on how he wished he had played a more active role. Regardless, he attended all the meetings and supported the Association over the years.
“I’m a very firm believer, and I’ve said this from the beginning, I think that anyone who is going to drill a well in the state of Ohio should have to sit in on a OOGA board meeting to see all of the activity that goes on behind the scenes. All of the people on the committees, the committee chairs, the people behind them, and there’s so much involved in this process which most people don’t even realize.”
The overall theme of what Mark has seen happen within the Association during his tenure as a member is the change in political structure the industry is facing. Today he feels much of what the industry is dealing with is very much a political game. He feels the Association and its leadership has been an integral part in shaping the industry and what it has established throughout Ohio.
Mark lives outside Millersburg with his wife, Janet. They have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. He enjoys “tinkering” on their 40 acre farm.
Posted By Penny Seipel, Vice President of Public Affairs,
Monday, January 25, 2016
Updated: Friday, January 29, 2016
Over the past few years you have heard those of us at the OOGA write about the antics of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) which has tried numerous times to get “Community Bills of Rights” passed in cities and counties across Ohio as well as other states. These Community Bill of Rights suggest that nature and ecosystems have rights, that businesses operating legally in the state have no rights, that these local government ordinances supersede any state or federal law and that citizens of the community can just shut you down if they believe you or your business are in anyway harming nature. Crazy right? Especially considering some of these ideas go against well-established legal precedents previously decided by the United States Supreme Court!
It looks as if CELDF has goaded a local government into legally defending one of these Community Bill of Rights one too many times. A business in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania General Energy LLC (PGE) went to court defending its ability to convert an existing gas well into an injection well, which it got the appropriate permits from the state and federal governments to do, against Grant Township who claimed that because the citizens of that township passed the Community Bill of Rights, their right of local self-government trumped all other forms of government and PGE was therefore not allowed to drill or operate an injection well. PGE filed suit against Grant Township in August of 2014. In the suit, which is proceeding in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, No. 1:14-cv-00209, PGE sought injunctive and declaratory relief to invalidate the Ordinance, as well as damages for the costs it incurred by having to dispose of wastewater at other locations.
In an October 14, 2015 ruling, the court agreed that the Ordinance overstepped Grant Township’s authority, as granted to it by the Pennsylvania legislature under the state’s Second Class Township Code. The case was continuing forward to determine if PGE was entitled to any damages. On October 26, 2015 Grant Township filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the October 14, 2015 ruling.
On January 15, 2016 PGE filed a motion for sanctions against Grant Township and their legal counsel, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund for their frivolous legal claims and defenses.
We, and many others in the oil and gas industry, will be anxiously awaiting the decision in both these matters. If the court rules in favor of PGE, perhaps the CELDF will finally be held accountable for the snake oil they have been selling to communities across the country.
Baker Hostetler breakdown of the case thus far can be found here: