SALEM - Fifty-one new oil and gas drilling leases recorded from May 8 to 24 were in Columbiana County with most of them in the northern part of the county.
There were 20 leases in Salem Township, 12 in Unity Township and five in Fairfield Township, representing the majority of leases signed.
All of the leases in Salem Township were with Chesapeake Exploration LLC, while four of the leases in Fairfield Township were with Chesapeake and one was with Atlas Noble LLC.
All the leases in Unity Township are with Atlas Noble LLC, a Philadelphia oil and gas drilling company operating out of Moon Township, Pa.
Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson said his office has been dealing mostly with road use maintenance agreements for pipeline easements but it has been generally known that once the pipeline infrastructure is in the ground things will pick up as far as drilling.
"It seems to be what's going on is pipeline," he said, adding that M3 Midstream Energy natural gas processing and NGL refinery in Kensington is expected to come on line at the end of July.
The M3 plant is part of a more than $1 billion investment in the region and there is another cryogenic plant with associated pipelines in Springfield Township in Mahoning County.
That is part of a $300 million total investment, that will process oil and gas products from surrounding wells.
Construction on State Line Road in Springfield Township begins this month, according to midstream services for Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG).
The natural gas plant, fixed at a cost of $150 million, will draw gas and oil from new pipelines, miles of which will stretch across three Columbiana County townships when it is completed.
About the expected increase in drilling activity, Dawson said, "We're waiting for it to break open."
The overall picture of the how the wells are being located is a pattern at a 30-degree angle running northwest to southeast along the natural geological track of the Utica shale line.
Dawson said oil companies are still gathering electronic seismic data on state Route 45 from Salem to East Liverpool for ongoing analysis.
The breakdown for the May 8-24 leases: Salem Township 20; Unity 12; Fairfield 5; Yellowcreek and Wayne three each; Hanover and Middleton two each; and one each in Center, Madison, Washington and West townships.