. Columbiana County is once again the top oil and gas producing county in the Mahoning Valley.

In 2016, wells in the southernmost county of the Valley produced 88,969 barrels of oil and 36 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

But in 2015, Columbiana pumped out 214,412 barrels of oil and 37 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to data released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Mahoning County followed with 10,302 barrels of oil produced in 2016 and 2.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas. In 2015, Mahoning County’s wells produced 22,378 barrels of oil and 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

Trumbull County, the northernmost county in the Valley, came in last place for its 2016 oil and gas output. A total of 5,560 barrels of oil and 349 million cubic feet of natural gas were produced in 2016, which compares with 10,871 barrels of oil and 628 million cubic feet of natural gas produced in 2015.

Across the state, production in 2016 was 17.9 million barrels of oil and 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In comparison, the state’s wells produced 23 million barrels of oil and 955 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2015.

“We had operators focusing on areas where they needed to get a return,” said Shawn Bennett, executive vice president for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Those areas were in Belmont and Monroe counties mostly, Bennett said.

Bennett said output has been down across the board because of commodity prices.

“Natural-gas prices have rebounded from where they were in the fourth quarter, but not to the point where we will see aggressive growth,” Bennett said. “The hope is we have seen the worst of it.”

Back in mid-2014 because of too much supply, oil prices dropped off from more than $100 a barrel to today’s price of $53 a barrel. In January 2016, the price per barrel plummeted as low as $26. Last year, OPEC and non-OPEC members agreed to cut their supply, and that moved prices upward.

PNC Bank economists expect the price of oil to remain at about $50 a barrel throughout the year.

“We see the large inventory of oil as something that will keep the lid on the increase [of prices],” PNC economist Mekael Teshome said.

Teshome said overall the industry will be a net contributor to the economy this year rather than a drag.

Across the state, natural-gas power plants are under construction, including two in Lordstown. When those go live, the local Utica Shale play is expected to see some impact.

“Hopefully, … natural-gas power plants can help rebound prices, not considerably, but every little bit helps,” Bennett said.

By Kalea Hall

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