Decline in drilling may have bottomed out as oil prices continue to rise

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The head of the Wood County Visitors and Convention Bureau told the county commission recently, he has heard from lodging owners more rooms are being sold. He says they cite increased interest in area oil and gas drilling.

"We just think that, looking forward, I'm hearing some things that indicate the gas business is coming back, which we all hope is true," CVB President Mark Lewis said Thursday.

Local number to back that up are not yet available. But national figures from Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. say the number of wells exploring for oil and natural gas returned to levels of early last year (665). That, after declining to just above 400 nationwide in May, 2016.

And, if you haven't noticed, gas prices rose to $2.49 a gallon in most of the area just after January first; about a dollar above what they were a year ago. The price of crude oil recently has been above $50 a barrel.

That's something a local expert told us in February, 2016 was the minimum needed for the wells to start being drilled again.

"With the prices for oil and gas products, the incentive to move forward to get some product to market has diminished.

"There's still a great deal of potential in the ground," said Dr. Ben Ebenhack, Associate Professor, Petroleum Engineering, Marietta College. "We have barely scraped the surface of that."

According to the state department of natural resources, Ohio did see an increase in natural gas drilling last summer. But drilling for oil continued to decline.