LEWISVILLE - Denver-based Antero Resources will pay roughly $112 million to lease about 19,000 Ohio Utica shale acres in Belmont, Monroe and Noble counties.
"I would never have imagined I would see rates like this being paid in Eastern Ohio," said Ed Sustersic, a representative of the Utica Landowners Group, which organized the deal involving about 270 property owners. "We feel this is a good deal for the landowners."
A practicing Belmont County attorney, Sustersic is joined in the landowners' group by fellow organizers Chuck Bell and Bruce Seabright. Sustersic said the final financial terms of $5,900 per acre with 21 percent on royalties are, to his knowledge, the highest yet paid in Eastern Ohio.
In September, the Utica Landowners Group arranged the signing of 26,000 Belmont County acres to Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy at a price of $4,950 per acre with 19 percent royalties.
"Hopefully, we can get the price to keep going up," said Sustersic, noting there are plenty more unsigned acres still available in the area.
Some of the landowners signed the deals with Antero representatives in person Friday at the Lewisville Community Center in western Monroe County, while Sustersic said the remainder would sign today. Most of the acreage is in northwestern Monroe County, southwestern Belmont County and eastern Noble County.
When asked which other companies the property owners considered for the deal, Sustersic said a "trade secret" would not permit him to disclose this. He is not sure when Antero will begin drilling, noting this is somewhat contingent upon how much acreage the company can assemble.
According to the company's website, Antero formed in 2002. The most recent company-provided information shows Antero has 215,000 net acres of leasehold in Northern West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The operations map shows the company is working in Wetzel County. The website notes Antero has drilled and fracked 65 operational horizontal Marcellus shale wells, and is in the process of drilling and fracking 19 more. The company also is constructing its own gathering facilities to connect its wells to compressor facilities and pipelines.
As companies like Antero continue leasing in Ohio's Utica shale - which industry officials believe may contain as many as 5.6 billion barrels of oil and a cache of ethane, propane, butane and pentane, in addition to the "dry" methane sold by utility companies - the drillers also face a possible stumbling block. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is working with gas officials and coal producers to resolve a dispute regarding plans to conduct longwall coal mining in the same areas where gas companies would like to drill.
"I would not be concerned about that at all," said Sustersic, noting the gas and coal officials "are all good people who will work this out."
As many in the Upper Ohio Valley wait to see where, or if, Royal Dutch Shell will build its planned multibillion-dollar ethane cracker, Antero is joining Chesapeake Energy and other companies in a plan to ship ethane to Texas, via the 1,230-mile ATEX Express pipeline. Antero will ship 20,000 barrels of ethane daily through the pipeline, which Enterprise Products Partners will operate. The ATEX Express is expected to begin service in early 2014.