SALEM - Next year will be pivotal in Utica shale play according to Mike Chadsey, director of public relations for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
There is pipe in the ground and processing facilities ready to service 600 drilled wells in the region, some 250 which are now producing, he said.
"Watch what happens in 2014 going into 2015," he said.
With about 400 wells yet to "be turned on," Chadsey said oil and gas industry officials will carefully monitor the flow and analyze the production after they have run for a while.
Two processing plants, the Hickory Bend Cryogenic Processing Plant in Spingfield Township in Mahoning County and the Utica East Ohio Buckeye (UEO Buckeye) cryogenic processing complex in Kensington in Columbiana County, underscore the regional impact and the scale of the industry's commitment to the area.
"Think of the regional aspect," Chadsey said, explaining that Columbiana County is between the two plants and "in a pretty good geographical location."
He pointed to the Columbiana County Port Authority in East Liverpool which part of a vast inland river system that reaches the Gulf of Mexico.
Chadsey said the port authority "will play a big part and is a tremendous asset ... don't underestimate it."
The port provides all-season, low-cost methods of cargo movement to the Gulf and beyond.
Emerging natural gas markets in Southeast Asia, the sub-Asian mid-continent and China are driving record-sized ship construction and widening the Panama Canal by a third will accommodate more commerce.
The "regional aspect" for the Columbiana County area means more drilling and the most recent Marcellus and Utica/Point Pleasant shale activity report shows there are 97 wells in various stages of development in the county.
There are 44 drilled or being drilling, 10 are currently producing with the rest in the permit stage.
Of the 10 producing wells in Columbiana County, four are in West Township, there are two each in Hanover and Franklin townships, and one each in Salem and Knox townships.
Companies are still defining the so-called Utica sweet spot and BP, which has an office in North Jackson, is expected to make an announcement regarding its Utica plans early next year.
A lot more drilling is expected in Mahoning County where there are 29 wells and in Trumbull County where there are 15.
There is one producing well in Mahoning County in Poland Township and two in Trumbull County, one each in Hartford and Johnston townships.
Besides Chesapeake Exploration, Hilcorp Energy has the biggest presence in Columbiana County and Chadsey noted that former Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon's new company, American Energy Partners Utica, is a "lean, fast-paced" company drilling south of U.S. Route 30 and in Stark County in Ohio.