Chesapeake proposes off-campus drill site

Editor’s note: This story was revised for accuracy at 3:20 p.m. Thursday.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. unveiled a comprehensive master development plan that could potentially produce the minerals under campus and several neighborhoods without a well on campus, according to a news release issued Friday.

The master plan, called the “Meerkat Mounds to Seminary” plan, proposes a means for the university to lease the minerals under campus while averting the problems associated with the former drill site, according to the news release.

Robyn Walton, head of the Colonial Hills Neighborhood Association gas drilling committee, said the neighborhoods had been concerned about gas flows in their backyard.

“The City Council made it clear that they were not going to grant any high impact permits where there were homes less than 300 feet away,” Walton said. “There’s really not any place on campus like that.”

Kristi Weisman, a council aid speaking on behalf of City Council District 9 Councilman Joel Burns, said the plan is a culmination of a process that has taken place over many months of deliberation between Chesapeake, the neighborhoods and campus officials.

“It takes a well site that would have potentially been 220 feet from residents out of the picture,” Weisman said.

Jerri Robbins, public relations manager for Chesapeake, said the plan allows her company to produce the minerals of 5,000 acres, including those under campus.

“It can successfully produce the minerals of several neighborhoods and businesses south of Interstate 30 beyond Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Robbins said.

Seven drill sites, three of which have already been permitted, will be used to tap into the gas reserves, Robbins said. With permission for the remaining four, Chesapeake will be able to implement the master plan, she said.

“This will allow for the max development of natural gas from a minimum number of pad sites,” Robbins said. “If one of those permits doesn’t go through, the plan won’t work because you need a large contiguous area. You can’t have a master plan without a piece of the puzzle.”

Shawn Kornegay, the university assistant director of communications, wrote in an e-mail that campus officials approved of the new plan.

“Throughout this process, TCU has always tried to collaboratively work with all parties to arrive at the most effective and responsible method to produce our minerals,” Kornegay wrote in the e-mail. “This announcement of a master development plan is reflective of that approach.”

Robbins said of the three pad sites that have been approved, the Thornton site, located near Old Granbury Road, will access the minerals under campus. The pad site called Structural Steel is in the plans to access minerals under campus, but it awaits permission from the City Council, Robbins said.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider said the wells will have to meet the gas drilling regulations.

“If wells are proposed to be located within 600 feet of a protected use, either waivers from the City Council or the protected use property owners would be required,” Fullenwider said.

If Chesapeake does not obtain all the waivers from property owners who are affected by the drill sites, they will have to gain the approval of the City Council, she said.

“If Chesapeake can demonstrate that the plan provides for the extraction of minerals from the property leased by the neighborhoods with less impact to those areas, that will probably weigh in favor of council approval,” Fullenwider wrote in an e-mail.

Weisman said although Burns cannot predict what his other eight colleagues will do, he thinks that the remaining four sites will be permitted, but not until April or May.

Kornegay said while work still remains to ratify the plan, campus officials hope many will view the plan as a positive development.