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Foreign markets may be the best hope for Ohio's shale boom
Natural gas is higher value commodity outside the U.S.; ederal regulation of natural gas exports began in the 1930s
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


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Tim Rudell
 
Drilling rig at twlight in Paris Township, Stark County, Ohio. Many early drilling operations were exploratory in nature, and did not turn up as much high grade oil as some energy companies had hoped
Courtesy of TPR
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Fears of Ohio’s Utica shale boom going bust followed reports that oil production in the first round of drilling was disappointing.  But, changes in federal regulatory activity may alter that. In Washington, a bi-partisan "working group" has been formed by members of Congress interested in the potential benefits of more active natural gas exporting. They want the U.S. Department of Energy to consider that potential, too. WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports

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There is a lot of natural gas in the shale under Ohio. But it isn’t very sellable; at least not at prices that justify the cost of drilling for it. Domestic markets are oversupplied.Natural gas storage tank  And, federal regulations can make it hard to sell overseas. So world markets, where gas prices are much higher than in the U.S., are having virtually no effect on domestic natural gas economics.  

Active in the House
Eight members of congress, including Tim Ryan of Niles and three other Democrats, and Bill Johnson of Marietta and three other Republicans formed a group to push tapping into the world market, where prices are high. They want the U.S. Energy Department, which regulates gas exports, to grant more permits.

"Even a small increase is going to allow us to increase economic output, create good manufacturing jobs and we don't have to get into anyforeign entanglements to do it."

Prices at home
Ryan says domestic gas prices would rise as a result; although not all that much becauseOhio Congressman Tim Ryan, Democrat, 13th District, was also a co-founder of the working group the domestic supply will remain huge. But, with rising market prices is general, energy companies will be far more likely to take wells into production, pumping billions of dollars in natural gas royalties into the Utica shale playand making the boom, well, boom. 

Action
Just two a few weeks ago, the Energy Department did issue permitting for a major new export operation from the Gulf coast

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