ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Denver-based Antero Resources plans to spend $1.65 billion this year, fracking wells and producing natural gas in Ohio's Utica Shale and West Virginia's Marcellus Shale.
Roughly one year after Antero agreed to pay $5,900 per acre with 21 percent royalties for mineral rights in Monroe County, the company is proceeding with its drilling operations. One of Antero's Monroe County wells in the name of Rubel has reached 8,132 feet in depth, Ohio Department of Natural Resources records show.
Belmont County records indicate Antero has about 800 separate lease agreements there with the intention to drill.
Sam Bonasso, president of Morgantown-based Reinforced Aggregates Co., is filling old tires with gravel to help natural gas companies build roads.
"We are here to stay," said Alvyn Schopp, vice president of administration and accounting for Antero. "This is the largest budget we have ever had for that part of the country, and we intend to keep moving forward."
In West Virginia, the state's Department of Environmental Protection has approved 15 well permits for Antero since Monday. The department also received several additional drilling applications for Antero in counties such as Tyler, Doddridge and Ritchie.
During 2013, Antero plans to operate an average of 12 drilling rigs in the Marcellus and two rigs in the Utica. These 14 rigs will be supplemented by four shallow rigs that will drill the vertical section of some horizontal wells down to the point at which the wells will turn horizontally, about 6,000 feet under the ground.
Of the $1.65 billion projected budget, Antero plans to use $1.15 billion specifically for drilling and fracking; $350 million for building gathering pipelines; and $150 million to acquire new leases. Antero's net production in West Virginia and Ohio is expected to increase by as much as 138 percent in 2013.
Antero is also looking to reduce truck traffic on narrow, rural roads by building an 80-mile water pipeline to service the company's fracking sites across northern West Virginia. The company estimates this process will actually save it roughly $600,000 per well, a considerable discount on wells estimated to cost around $7 million each to drill and frack.
"It will basically run across Doddridge, Harrison and Ritchie counties. It will connect our water impoundments and pools to carry water to our sites," Schopp said of the pipeline. "These are fresh water pipes only, so no one needs to worry about one of them rupturing and releasing flowback water."
Flowback water results when drillers finish with a frack job, which requires as much as 6 million gallons of water. Since some of this water flows back up through the well when fracking is finished, drillers need to take this briny substance to injection wells.
"One of the major complaints everyone in this industry gets deals with truck traffic. This system should help us significantly reduce our impact there," Schopp said.
As companies such as Antero look for ways to reduce their traffic, one Morgantown company has a new method to help drillers searching for economical ways to move their trucks. Sam Bonasso, president of Reinforced Aggregates Co., is filling old tires with gravel to help natural gas companies build roads.
"They can use these by themselves for a temporary solution, or they can pave over them," said Bonasso is describing his "geo-cylinder confinement system." He said his company removes both sidewalls from the used tires before filling them with gravel.
"This is a way to make a 'green' use of these old tires," Bonasso said, noting the process keeps tires out of landfills.