ROMNEY - Chesapeake Energy, headquartered in Oklahoma, is expanding its gas exploration operations in West Virginia and particularly in Hampshire, Hardy, Grant and Mineral counties, according to representatives of T.S. Dudley Land Co. Inc.

Gary Schach, Bruce Love and Jerry Mezzatesta, speaking on behalf of Dudley and Chesapeake, presented a program designed to point out the economic development benefits to Hampshire County at the county commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Mezzatesta, an agent with Dudley, introduced Schach and Love to County Commissioners Don Cookman, Steve Slonaker and Robert Hott.

Schach explained that Chesapeake is not a utility but an independent gas producer.

He said the company focuses its operations in regionally consolidated areas of the country, including the Appalachian Basin.

"The company has become the industry's No. 1 developer of unconventional reserves and is actively seeking leases to drill wells in the four counties," he said.

Schach said the company has in place new completion and drilling techniques that make it more efficient and economical to drill in areas not previously considered productive.

He said the company is committed to conducting its operations with care for the environment, meeting or exceeding all regulatory requirements. When the company leaves a drill site, it's in better condition than when they began, he said.

"We don't want to leave any landowner unhappy," he said.

If gas is found, it is gathered through a network of pipelines to a processing plant, then transmitted to larger pipelines and storage facilities.

"The companies that take gas from pipeline and storage facilities and provide to homes and businesses are the utilities," he said.

Schach and Love said the development of wells within the county would provide a significant economic impact. He listed a wide range of jobs that would be required once wells are in operation such as rig crews, dozer-operating businesses that could be expanded, pipeline workers, laborers, foresters, attorneys, clerical, well tenders and meter readers.

Love said the landowners who sign leases with Chesapeake also benefit.

He said that a lease agreement provides $4 per acre to the landowner per year for 10 years and if gas is found and the well produces, the landowner also receives royalties.

Schach said each well is part of a 640-acre tract and the landowners' share in the monthly royalty of a producing well is prorated based on the number of acres they own within the tract.

Love said they are confident that there is gas in the region because they know that native gas exists in the local shales.

They provided a chart showing the natural gas transportation system from the wells to the residential, commercial and larger-volume customers.

They also provided background material on Chesapeake, indicating the company is the third-largest independent producer of natural gas in the country with estimated reserves of 9.4 trillion cubic feet and that it is the most active driller of new wells in the country.

The package of information included a photograph of a well operation site.

Additional information about the company can be found at www.chk.com.

Contact Mona Ridder at monaridder@verizon.net.

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