COLUMBIANA - The Houston-based company hired to drill on property known as the Brinker Storage Field wants to set up shop in Columbiana.
Becky Hackert represented Hilcorp Energy before the city's planning commission recently and said the company intends to lease office space on South Main Street.
"We have a large amount of activity in the area and are looking for a place (to work from). We desire to be in the downtown district," she said.
She added the company's closest office space to Columbiana is in New Castle, Pa., which at roughly 30 miles away is "just too far a distance."
The South Main Street location will house office personnel, including a receptionist, and land agents, she said.
Work conducted in the office will focus on the property aspect of drilling, not the actual production, she explained. The office will also serve as a place where landowners can meet with company employees to have their questions answered, she said.
"We are busy over here and we need a location," she said.
The privately owned company was hired by Columbia Gas' parent company, NiSource, to develop oil and gas on the roughly 35,000-acre storage field owned by Columbia.
Hilcorp and Columbia Gas employees have met with Brinker Storage Field landowners in private meetings held downtown. The meetings have been closed to non-landowners, although a company representative confirmed in September the bulk of the meetings had to do with what will become of their mineral rights.
The landowners wishing to get out of the existing leases say they are keeping them from entering new leases with other companies. As of this month, more than 100 property owners have joined a lawsuit against Columbia. The suit claims, among other things, that the existing leases dating back to the 1940s are outdated and no longer valid.
The older leases offered no signing bonuses or royalty percentages, or a lump sum royalty of $200 a year for property where gas was being stored underneath.
Meanwhile in October, NiSource reached an agreement with landowners who opted not to sue, and those residents were given updated leases that included a 15 percent royalty percentage on oil and gas production.
The agreement was reached through the help of state Rep. Craig Newbold, who also lives in Columbiana.
Hilcorp was granted its first permit to drill in Columbiana County in August by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, according to an article that appeared in the Business Journal that month. The horizontal drilling permit was for property in Hanover Township. Outside of the county the company has leased property in Campbell, and shown an interest in leasing in other neighboring areas.
As for the request from Hackert, the planning commission approved allowing the company to lease office space on South Main Street in the central business zoning district.