By Maureen Hayden
New Media Producer: Amanda Lents
Indiana State officials say Southwest Indiana is experiencing a boom in oil and gas exploration, with a peak number of wells drilled over the past 15 years.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas released a report earlier this week that says oil and gas wells are being drilled in Indiana "At a pace that hasn't been seen for at least 15 years," according to Herschel McDivitt, director of the DNR Division of Oil and Gas.
DNR officials say the division issued more than 450 drilling permits in 2006, a number that McDivitt expects to steadily increase during the next several years, due to the anticipated higher prices for crude oil and natural gas.
"This is an exciting time to be in the oil and gas business," McDivitt said in a press release announcing the news.
"While much of the interest is in drilling for crude oil, a growing number of wells are being drilled for natural gas, especially in the southwestern part of Indiana where companies are actively developing wells."
McDivitt acknowledged that along with the increase in drilling applications has come a significant number of questions from landowners who have been approached by companies seeking to obtain leases from the landowners allowing them to drill on their properties.
"Many landowners are unfamiliar with the process of leasing their land for oil and gas and are seeking more information about oil and gas operations and looking to find answers to their questions," McDivitt said.
DNR has also made some changes in the Division of Oil and Gas's organizational structure.
Jim AmRhein will be responsible for all inspections and compliance- related functions within the division's program.
Previously, AmRhein was in charge of all permitting functions, as well as inspections and enforcement duties in central and northern Indiana.
The permitting functions have now become the responsibility of the new Technical Services Section, headed by Mona Nemecek, who has been with the division since 1994 as a petroleum geologist.