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Pa. company eyeing Downs for possible oil well field

DOWNS — A Bradford, Pa., company is seeking a special use permit from McLean County to drill for oil and gas on a 274-acre parcel near Downs.

In a letter to the McLean County Department of Building and Zoning, Minard Run Oil Company said the land just northwest of the 2200 East Road and 500 North Road intersection, “has been identified as being favorable for oil and gas accumulations …” according to geological studies and seismic surveys.

The property is owned by the Marianne Nelson O’Rourke trust and the Joseph A. O’Rourke trust. Minard Run would lease the property.

Phil Dick, director of the county’s building and zoning department, said the company initially wants to drill down about 1,000 feet at one location. If oil is not found, the hole would be plugged and the company would not pursue other sites on the tract. If the well does reveal oil or gas, Dick said the company has indicated it would drill on 12 other sites on the property.

Minard Run already has received a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to “drill and/or operate a well for oil.” The permit is valid for a year.

Dick said the proposed site is near the Mahomet Aquifer that serves as a drinking source for numerous communities in Central Illinois.

Attempts to reach Minard Run officials were unsuccessful late Wednesday.

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals will have a public hearing on the special use permit request at 7 p.m. Oct. 7.

Related: Aug. 27, 2014 marks 155th anniversary of America’s first oil well

Dick said other companies drilled for oil in McLean County in the 1960s, “but they were not too successful.” There currently are no active oil wells in the county, he said.

The process proposed by Minard Run is not considered fracking, according to the definition of new rules adopted by the state, Dick said.

Information the company filed with McLean County said a truck mounted rig would be used to drill a 350-foot hole. A 7-inch casing is then set and cemented to the surface “in compliance with IDNR drilling permit conditions for the protection of fresh water zones.”

After the cement has cured, a blowout preventer is installed on the surface casing. It’s pressure-tested for leaks and drilling resumes, the company said. The well would be about 1,050 feet deep. If the well is capable of producing oil, 4 1/2 -inch production casing is run to the bottom of the well and cemented back to the surface, according to the information filed by the company. “Note that the fresh water zones now have four layers of protection,” it states.

Dilute muriatic acid may be injected to enhance the productivity. The company maintains the process “does not involve horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing” as regulated by the recently adopted state fracturing rules.

The site would include two 210-barrel steel oil storage tanks, an oil-water separator and a saltwater storage tank. Oil would be trucked from the site in 170-barrel loads. The company estimates there would be 12 semi-truck trips per well per year.

According to its website, Minard Run is the oldest family owned independent oil company in the world. It was started in 1875 by Sen. Lewis Emery Jr. and is currently owned, operated and managed by his four great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson — D. Kennedy Fesenmyer, Natalie Emery, Elaine F. Northrup, Frederick W. Fesenmyer and Frederick W. Fesenmyer III.



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