ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Murray Energy Corp. already produces 30 million tons of coal per year, and now company officials are considering the opportunity to drill for oil and natural gas in Ohio's Utica Shale.
"We do own gas and oil rights in all states where our mines are located and all options are on the table. It all comes down to markets and business decisions," said Robert Edward Murray, vice president of business development and external affairs.
As the parent company of American Energy Corp.'s Century Mine, Ohio Valley Coal Co.'s Powhatan No. 6 mine and OhioAmerican Energy Inc.'s Red Bird West mine, Murray Energy is widely known for producing coal. With the ongoing upturn in oil and natural gas drilling across eastern Ohio, though, company officials are keeping their options open in the event of a sudden market change.
Photo by CASEY JUNKINS
MURRAY ENERGY Corp. continues coal mine shaft construction in the area of Ohio 149 between Belmont and Warnock.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Murray has several permits to work on oil and gas wells in Belmont County. However, these permits are to plug and abandon certain gas wells, which the company may do as part of its mining operations.
Some also wonder if there may be a conflict between Murray's coal mining operations and the oil and gas drilling work performed by other companies in Belmont County.
"The two industries have co-existed for years and will continue to do so," said Murray, noting he did not believe problems would result.
Also, construction continues on Murray's new corporate headquarters, just off National Road between Ohio 331 and the East Richland Evangelical Friends Church. The company is moving 149 offices into a four-story, 60,000-square-foot structure to consolidate corporate operations now taking place at four separate locations.
The projected completion date is the end of May, with a planned move-in date of June 2012. A pavilion, small lake and all landscaping features will be included. The new office will house the corporation's central operating, engineering, maintenance, geologic, purchasing, accounting, information systems, environmental and sales staff.
"The new office construction is still on schedule," Murray said.
In addition to the three local mines, Murray operates the Ohio Valley Transloading Co. in Powhatan Point; the KenAmerican Resources Inc. Paradise Mine in western Kentucky; the American Coal Co.'s New Future No. 5 and New Era mines in southern Illinois; and the UtahAmerican Energy Inc. West Ridge Mine and Wildcat Loadout in eastern Utah.