ELIZABETH - A group of property owners in several counties has joined together to present an option for natural gas drilling and production, as well as figuring out what the industry can bring to make a fair deal.
The Wirt County Oil and Gas Group was formed in February and has brought together landowners, mineral rights holders and gas producers to formulate a workable lease option for those interested in having their property used in natural gas production, said James Lydon, one of the group's organizers.
"The goal is to develop large blocks of acreage that will be attractive to drilling companies that are developing the Marcellus Shale formation," he said. "All oil, gas and mineral owners are invited to join the group and work toward acquiring the best price and best company or companies to produce our oil, gas and hydrocarbons."
Earlier this year, Lydon was at a meeting discussing options for local residents interested in having their land used for gas production. He found someone he knew was being offered $500 an acre less than what he was being offered and felt something needed to be done to make the process more equitable for everyone involved.
He got people to join together to look at the issues involved in natural gas production, as well as landowner rights and other concerns that have come up.
Lydon has stated the group that has 50,000 acres signed up to be leased, with the possibility of several thousand more. Acreage in Wirt, Wood, Ritchie, Calhoun, Roane and Jackson counties has been committed to the group, representing 350-400 people.
"We have a mix of people that includes gentlemen farmers, mineral rights holders and small oil/gas producers," Lydon said. "Working together keeps us all focused."
The oil/gas producers bring knowledge of the business to the group.
"They help us understand what we need to do," Lydon said.
Members represent landowners with around five acres available to one who has 20,000 acres.
The goal of the Wirt County Oil and Gas Group is to develop a lease that is fair to the royalty owner, surface owner and the producer, Lydon said.
Collectively the group will solicit members to help make large contiguous tracks of minerals that will be marketed so that maximum return can be gained.
The group has had two meetings with a third scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Wirt County High School auditorium.
Organizers said meetings are conducted with respect and in a business-like manner with decisions being made by consensus or majority vote.
Membership is voluntary, and the decisions made by the group will not bind any member to do something he/she does not believe is right for them.
Policies will be formulated by committees who will collect ideas and data to help the members make decisions without everyone in the group meeting for days at a time to come up with a plan, organizers said.
The next meeting will be to distribute and discuss the proposed lease. The lease has been developed by a committee of members and reviewed by attorney Tom Whittier.
"The lease meets our goal of being fair to the oil and gas owner, the landowner and the company that will produce the wells," Lydon said.