Excitement soars for oil and gas industry in Ohio

A palpable excitement is growing in the industry and I don’t think its attributed to spring’s imminent arrival.

I spent last week at the Ohio Oil & Gas Winter Meeting in Columbus and the mood there was markedly different from last year. Gone were the overwhelming worries of companies folding and wells not being drilled, and gone were the pessimistic attitudes of what the future held. This year, there was pride and enthusiasm for growth in the industry, and excitement that most have had a better start this year than last.

OOGA LogoNow that’s not to say that the Ohio oil and gas producers and operators aren’t worried about money and politics this year. They are, but they are also optimistic about the future – a trend I think others nationwide are feeling as well.

As I sat at my booth and watched the more than 700-person crowd squeeze between the booths on their way to events and meetings, it felt like a family reunion of sorts. For the majority of people, this meeting is one of the only times operators and businesses meet up with others in the state each year. Familiar faces pass by or stop and say hello, and it’s nice to see how the year as changed, helped their business.

Here are some of my observations from watching and listening to those around me last week:

– The Utica Shale play, increasingly gaining exposure in Ohio right now, appears to be a game-changer for the state and those involved in drilling. Unlike the Marcellus Shale, which barely hovers on the eastern edges of the state, the Utica encompasses half the state and provides numerous opportunities for local businesses. This coincides with a recent article out of Dayton, Ohio, about how Ohio’s investments show the state could be part of an oil boom.

– Because the Republicans now control the State’s government, there is literally an excitement when those in the industry met with Senators and House leaders about changes the state will make to increase jobs, pay down the debt former Governor Ted Strickland left and once again make the state an ideal place for businesses to be.

– Those in Ohio’s industry realize that something has to change regarding public relations and hydraulic fracturing in order for the debate to end. Obviously those using the technique (which is almost everyone) care deeply about the environment and community they are working in, and understand the need is great to educate those in their reach how the process works and separate fact from fiction.

– Drilling is only going to continue to grow in the state and many companies are trying new and different things in light of the Utica shale discovery. Propositions and deals were floating through the air as clusters of the men I can affectionately describe as “Good Ol’ Boys” congregated, told stories of success and highlighted what the future would bring.

Despite political setbacks from the President’s lack of knowledge of how energy really works in the country to an uproar from politicians, environmentalists and ill-researched filmmakers about hydraulic fracturing, I think this will be a good year for the industry overall. What’s your take on 2011?

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