Landowners have responsibilities, too, when it comes to oil and gas leases

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Could you use some extra money? There are few of us that can say no to that question.

Landowners often consider selling minerals, timber, coal, oil, gas, topsoil, development rights, carbon, or wind — but what are the ramifications of these agreements? How and for how long will they affect you and your heirs?

Before you sign an agreement, make sure that you are well informed and protect your assets, and your local soil and water conservation district (SWCD) can help.

Marcellus meeting. Within the Marcellus Shale area, natural gas is generally the mineral of interest. Of the 60 permits issued for the Marcellus shale drilling to date in Ohio, Belmont County leads with 19.

Since the Marcellus wells require larger acreage, the Belmont Soil & Water Conservation District is concerned about the impact on farming practices and the soil and water.

Belmont Soil & Water Conservation District, County Farm Bureau, County OSU Extension Service, and Belmont Technical College are sponsoring two informational meetings to help local residents make better decisions about oil and gas leases and protecting natural resources, soil and water.

The first meeting is Thursday, July 15, at 7 p.m. at the Belmont Technical Horizon Room. A second meeting will be held in October, with details to be announced later.

‘Mineral rights.’ Many local landowners have recently been approached about selling their “mineral rights”. Mineral rights are the right entitling a mineral owner to extract a mineral from the earth or to receive payment in the form of royalties for the extraction of specific minerals.

Mineral property is considered a real property much like surface property, so it can be retained, transferred and leased in whole or in part. It is possible to own the mineral rights or a property without owning the surface rights.

A lease is a legal document (contract) between the landowner (lessor) and an individual or company (lessee) that allows the company to drill and develop the oil and gas minerals beneath the property. Once a lease is signed, it may last for many years.

Larry Gearhardt. Ohio Farm Bureau attorney, will discuss the components of a wisely executed lease agreement that will protect the landowner, their heirs, and the property during the life of the well.

Environmental impact. Besides the financial aspect, landowners must consider the environmental effects. A typical padsite is three to five acres. It takes one to four weeks to construct the padsite, three to four weeks to drill the well and then taking down the equipment. The company will regularly return to monitor and maintain the site.

An average well requires 3 million gallons of water to drill and fracture. Once the well is completed the brine is usually pumped into saltwater disposal wells, but where are those wells located?

Once the well is drilled, lines must be installed to deliver the gas. At some wellsites, trucks may return to remove naturally occurring water, which is separated from natural gas during the gathering process and stored in tanks located on the site.

You don’t just collect the money and then forget about the consequences of your decision.

Inspection. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM) Oil & Gas Division’s responsibilities include regulating Ohio’s oil and gas drilling, production, brine disposal, solution mining and underground injection operations.

The division staff inspects the drilling, restoration, and plugging of all oil and gas wells in Ohio. They also issue permits for all oil and gas, injection and solution mining wells in Ohio.

Rick Simmers, statewide oil and gas enforcement supervisor, will be present to cover the regulations and how they are implemented.

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And just as an aside, the Belmont Soil & Water Conservation District office recently moved, and is now located at 101 N. Market Street, Suite D, St. Clairsville; 740-526-0027.

For additional information for the Thursday, July 15, 2010 Oil & Gas Meeting, contact Belmont County Farm Bureau at 740-425-3681.

About the Author

After graduating from Ohio State University, Beverly Riddle taught at Carrollton High School and worked for Jefferson County OSU Extension with the 4-H and Home Economics programs. Her passion for farming and serving on the Jefferson SWCD Board and Ohio SWCD Area 3 Director led her to the Belmont Soil & Water Conservation District where she became Program Administrator in 1999. More Stories by Beverly Riddle

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