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The production of sand, gravel, salt and other minerals in New York state remained strong in 1996 while the output of oil and gas continued the nearly flat or sinking pattern they have shown in the last decade, a new report says.

While the value of extracted solid minerals last year is estimated at $1 billion, the combined worth of oil and gas slipped to $46.2 million, according to the 1996 annual report of the Division of Mineral Resources, a unit of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

But Mineral Resources Director Gregory H. Sovas said that an upturn in gas production may lie ahead. "We have received a significant number of permit applications for deep wells," he said, while also reporting that production from the shallower Medina layer gas wells had fallen.

"New York did not experience the boom in gas and oil production that occurred in other states," he said. One consequence has been a shortage of rigs capable of deep-well development.

Another aspect of the 1996 annual report is the start of workshops designed to modernize the rules governing oil, gas and solution mining rules. The workshops will precede a public hearing to be scheduled for 1998.

The workshop schedule is: Oct. 14, 1-6 p.m. at the Batavia Sheraton-Holiday Inn; Oct. 15, 1-5 p.m., Building 5, Jamestown Community College, and Oct 16. 7-10 p.m. Academic Hall, Jamestown Community College, Olean Campus.

The workshops, designed to hear opinions from industry people, will precede a 1998 public hearing.

Gas production falls 2%

In 1996, New York gas production was 18.3 billion cubic feet, a 400 million cubic feet or 2 percent decline from a year earlier. A decade ago in 1987, gas production was nearly 30 billion cubic feet.

Chautauqua County with an 8.42 billion cubic feet of gas from 3,084 wells remained the state's leading natural gas producer. Tioga County was second with 12 highly productive wells yielding 2.4 billion cubic feet. Erie with 765 active wells producing 1.66 billion cubic feet was third, while Cattaraugus was fourth with 462 wells yielding 1.33 billion cubic feet.

Hext in order of output were Genesee, 1.01 billion cubic feet; Wyoming, 353 million; Allegany, 224 million, and Steuben, 218 million.

Natural gas prices averaged $2.21 per 1,000 cubic feet, a 9 cent drop from 1995 and 19 cents under the 1993 price.

The top three gas producing organizations are: Belden & Blake Corp., North Canton, Ohio; Meridian Exploration Corp., Pittsburgh, and Lomark Operating Co., Hartville, Ohio.

Oil output rises 1.6%

Oil production last year was put at 308,529 barrels, a 1.6 percent increase over the 1995 output, but well below the 700,000 barrels extracted in 1987. Oil prices averaged $18.29 a barrel, up $2 from the 1995, but $5 a barrel less than the 1889 price.

The top three oil producers were East Resource Inc., Allegany; Richardson Petroleum Corp., Andover, and Pefley Oil & Gas Corp., West Falls.

Five active salt (solution) mines last year yielded 2.4 million metric tons of salt that were removed from 2.14 billion gallons of brine.

Some 105 of 125 unplugged salt mines, owned either by the Texas Brine corp. or the Morton Salt Co., lie in the Wyoming County Towns of Castile, Gainesville and Middlebury. The Azko and Cargil corporations also have salt mines in Schuyler County.

Gas storage areas are becoming increasingly important to the state and a source of revenue for property owners, Sovas said. Storage-area leasing rose 7 percent in 1996. Some 23 underground Storage fields contain 171 billion cubic feet of gas, much of which can be delivered as needed.

The development of another major field in the Steuben County Town Avoca was suspended with its future uncertain, the report says.

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