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COUNTY ADDS TRICKLE TO FLOW OF OIL, GAS FROM WNY WELLS

They're dribblers rather than Oklahoma-style gushers, but they're Erie County's only two producing oil wells.

Many more are in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties, mostly relatively small producers and a vestige of the nation's 19th-century petroleum industry that began in Western New York and Pennsylvania, according to county profiles by the state Department of Environmental Conservation on oil and gas production in Western New York.

They produced far more oil in past decades. But oil people say that some day -- if domestic oil prices rise into the $20- or $30-a-barrel range and new extraction methods are perfected -- they may produce more.

One Erie County well, opened five years ago, is off Draudt Road in the Town of Orchard Park.

"Some years earlier, we had drilled a gas well there and had a show of oil," explained Tom Weil of Weil Resources of Lancaster. "We went back later when we had time and drilled down about 1,000 feet and completed the well.

"We get almost 150 barrels a year, not enough to offset the need for imports. Because the well requires minimal maintenance, we keep it active. At current oil prices, it's not economical to operate wells that require a lot of maintenance."

David Francis of the Town of Collins owns Erie County's other oil well, which produced 134 barrels in 1993.

The county also had 806 active gas wells, which produced $6 million in gas in 1993 -- the latest figures available -- at prices averaging $2.40 per 1,000 cubic feet. Landowners received $750,000 in royalties.

Elma and Evans had the largest concentration of gas wells, but more than 30 wells were drilled in Buffalo.

Here are the 1993 figures for the Southern Tier counties:

Allegany -- Sixty-three active gas wells and 1,410 active oil wells. The combined value of their 50,643 barrels of oil and 365 million cubic feet of gas was $1.74 million. Landowner royalties were nearly $218,000.

Cattaraugus -- The 501 active natural gas wells yielded 2.6 billion cubic feet of gas, and the 1,750 active oil wells produced 197,863 barrels, for a total value of $9.53 million. Landowner royalties were $1.19 million.

Chautauqua -- The 3,069 active gas wells -- the most in recent years -- produced 10.60 billion cubic feet, and the 415 active oil wells yielded 61,499 barrels of oil, for a total value of $26 million. Nearly $3 million in landowner royalties were paid.

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