Oil & Gas Investment in Southeast Ohio

Cleveland State University recently updated its semi-annual Shale Investment Dashboard.  The report shows that from 2011 to through 2020, $92.9 billion dollars has been spent in Ohio tied to the upstream (leasing and drilling), midstream (pipelines and processing) and downstream (power plants and petrochemical manufacturing) developments across Ohio.  

For 10 years, the Utica Shale, more than a mile below ground, has contributed to Ohio’s economy.  As an economic development professional living and working in eastern Ohio, I am certainly thankful for the investments and jobs created by the oil and gas industry. The tangible benefits can be seen at the massive construction site of the $1.6-billion natural-gas-fired power plant along I-77 near Byesville. This facility joins gas power plants already built in Carroll, Columbiana, Trumbull and Monroe counties. According to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), natural gas is now the biggest source of electricity (36.5%) on our regional power grid. Renewables account for 5%.

Highly sophisticated natural gas processing and natural gas liquids fractionation plants can be found in Harrison, Noble and Monroe counties. More oil and gas jobs can be found at Halliburton in Zanesville, Ascent Resources in Cambridge, Encino Energy in Carrollton, Antero Resources in Marietta, and the many service and supply chain companies scattered throughout the region. Additionally, property taxes from wells and pipelines have funded new school facilities in low-wealth districts.   

The oil and gas industries’ investments are needed as coal jobs have been on the decline. As I write this, the former AEP Conesville facility in Coshocton County is being demolished. First Energy announced recently the W.H Sammis plant in Jefferson County will close in 2028. The former DP&L power plants, J.M. Stuart and Killen, are also gone, robbing distressed Adams County of its largest employers and taxpayers. The former AEP Muskingum River plant near Beverly has been demolished as has the First Energy R.E. Burger plant and AMP Gorsuch plant. Each of these facilities directly employed hundreds of workers at wages well above regional averages. With all the thousands of coal mining jobs lost as well as the indirect and induced jobs in the coal supply chain, the impacts have been devastating for southern and eastern Ohio.

Appalachian Ohio has suffered disproportionately from economic changes driven by market forces, aging assets and government policies. The region eagerly awaits tangible evidence of long-discussed renewable energy jobs and investment in the region. We are encouraged that a solar array is under construction in Highland County. But whether or not those investments ever reach our expectations, our region will keep producing the resources to keep the lights on, heat the homes, and charge the batteries of phones and cars in more prosperous places across the country. Thanks, of course, to the oil and gas industry.