Companies have big plans for county and its resources

COLUMBIANA – With natural gas exploration already under way in Columbiana County, two men representing two companies involved in the area were among those who spoke at a community informational meeting Monday sponsored by the Columbiana Area Chamber of Commerce.

More than 100 people attended the event held at the auditorium at Crestview High School. Many were local property owners or people interested in becoming vendors for the natural gas industry.

Both David Wilkins of Hilcorp and Jim Curry of Williams, one of two companies involved in the Bluegrass Pipeline, spoke about the jobs their companies believe they will be creating in the area, the partnerships being created with property owners and their companies’ commitments to the local areas.

Wilkins said Hilcorp was founded in 1989 by Jeff Hildebrand and has become the third largest privately held gas and oil exploration company. According to Wilkins, the company he works for strives to do the right thing, get involved in the local community, and the employees are part of the company’s success.

“We are about creating opportunities,” Wilkins said. “We’re looking to put local people to work and working with local vendors.”

Currently, the company has two drilling rigs running in the area, one in Mahoning County near Poland and another in Lawrence County, Pa. Additionally, the company is 50 percent owners of the Pennant processing plant along with NiSource.

According to Wilkins, Hilcorp believes in sampling water wells and getting the most out of a drilling pad, putting in as many wells on each site as possible. Instead of hauling with trucks, the company strives to reduce the impact in the area by building pipelines. Additionally, he said the company helps train local emergency responders to know how to better deal with issues which could arise due to drilling and natural gas.

The company helps its employees make donations to charities and offers scholarships to students in the areas where drilling activity is happening. Wilkins announced that in 2014 a $10,000 scholarship will be offered to a Columbiana graduate showing promise in math or science. The scholarship will be given at $2,500 per year for four years provided the student continues to maintain grades.

Hilcorp has opened an office in Columbiana, allowing local people with questions a place to find them. Working in the Columbiana land office are seven field supervisors with 140-plus years of experience, according to Wilkins.

Jim Curry works for Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP, two companies who joined together to bring the Bluegrass Pipeline to this area. The pipeline currently covers 600 miles and 600 more new miles are being built.

Curry said in Ohio the pipeline will cross 17 counties, including Columbiana County, where it will be 25.5 miles long. Currently the company is talking to landowners about their properties, taking surveys to learn more about the land available. Next year, the project will be in the engineering phases and obtaining rights of ways from them. According to Curry, the company plans to give $8 million to landowners to obtain rights of way.

By 2015 the pipeline construction will begin with an estimated completion by the end of the year. Curry said there will be $10 million in new tax revenue created by the construction of the pipeline and the addition of 3,000 jobs in Ohio during the construction phases.

Liquid natural gas, such as ethane, propane and butane, will be transported in the pipeline to refineries, where it will be converted into plastic products. According to Curry, Ohio is already the number one producer of plastic and rubber products.

He also spoke of the importance of giving back to the community. Up to $25,000 in community grants are made available to local areas where the company operates.

“We focus on being good neighbors,” Curry said. “We go the extra mile.”

Both Hilcorp and Bluegrass Pipeline have Internet websites where people are encouraged to get more information about them.