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ERIE COUNTY ADDS TRICKLE TO THE FLOW OF OIL, GAS COMING FROM WESTERN NEW YORK WELLS

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

There are many more 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.

In past decades, they produced far more oil than now. But oil men 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.

The current status of oil and gas production in Western New York is outlined in a series of county profiles just released by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

One well is in the Town of Orchard Park. "We opened our well off Draudt Road in Orchard Park about five years ago," said Tom Weil of Weil Resources of Lancaster. "Some years earlier, we had drilled a gas well there and had a show of oil. 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. Twice a year, the Witco oil people of Bradford, Pa., collect our oil and refine it into lubricating oil, wax and gasoline."

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

In addition to those two oil wells, Erie County had 806 active and 102 inactive gas wells. The active wells produced $6 million in gas in 1993 -- the latest figures available -- at prices that averaged $2.40 per 1,000 cubic feet, the best since 1986. Landowners realized $750,000 in royalties.

Elma and Evans had the largest concentration of gas wells, but more than 30 wells were drilled in Buffalo. Enviro Gas of Hamburg with 53 wells was the largest single producer.

Here are the 1993 profile figures for the Southern Tier counties:

Allegany -- 63 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.

The Richardson Petroleum Co. of Wellsville was the largest oil producer, and the CNG Transmission Co. of North Canton, Ohio, tapped the most natural gas. The Town of Independence yielded the most oil, and the Town of Wellsville was the largest source of natural gas.

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.

Pennzoil Products of Bradford, Pa., was the largest oil producer, while Hall & Associates of North Canton, Ohio, drew the most gas. The Town of Allegany was the leading oil producing area, while the Town of Leon led in gas production.

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.

The Town of Chautauqua had the most gas wells, while the Town of Gerry was the center of oil production. TGX Corp. of Houston captured the most gas, while Oil, Gas and Land Services of Mayville drew the most oil.

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