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What are companies purchasing oil & gas leases in Kent County hiding?

October 30, 2012

On Sunday, we provided some analysis of an MLive story about the increase of oil & gas leases in Kent County in the last year, mostly due to the scramble for more natural gas.

In our article we pointed out that even though the MLive headline suggested they would report on details of the oil & gas leases in Kent County, they didn’t. In fact, the only company mentioned involved in purchases leases for oil & gas rights in Kent County was Western Land Services, which we reported has previously purchased mineral rights in Michigan for the notorious energy giant, Chesapeake Energy Corp.

Earlier today, I went down to the Kent County Registrar’s office to look at documents related to the purchasing of mineral rights in Kent County by oil & gas companies. I asked to see any and all information about mineral leasing in Kent County for 2012. A staff person with the county gave me 68 pages of information, detailing every leasing agreement with land owners and private oil & gas companies or those representing oil & gas companies.

Here is the list of companies that had purchased leasing rights in Kent County for 2012:

  • Bishop Land Services
  • Sun Operations
  • Central Michigan Exploration
  • Liverpool Production Company
  • Uniroyal Inc.
  • AMOCO
  • Jordan Development Company
  • Michigan Basin Resources
  • Western Land Services
  • Goodale Enterprises
  • Merrill Drilling
  • Shell Oil
  • PTERADON Energy

Of the 13 companies that had purchased leasing rights to explore for oil & gas in Kent County so far in 2012, only seven of them had purchased multiple parcels of land for oil & gas exploration.

The seven companies that have purchased multiple leases for oil & gas are: Bishop Land Services (46) Central Michigan Exploration (30), Liverpool Production Company (15), Michigan Basin Resources (60), Western Land Services (130), Goodale Enterprises (8) and PTERADON Energy (44).

As we mentioned in the posting on Sunday, Western Land Services has offices across the country, but primarily works on behalf of oil & gas companies to purchase land or leasing rights, sort of a front company or go between, in order to protect the companies who will actually be doing the oil & gas extraction. A recent example in Michigan was when Western Land Services was hired by Chesapeake Energy Corp, according to a story from Reuters. The Reuters piece talks about how many land owners in the Traverse City area were approached by companies like Western Land Services on behalf of Chesapeake Energy Corp and that there is now a lawsuit against the fossil fuel giant because of fraudulent practices.

The company with the second highest number of leases for oil & gas in Kent County this year is Michigan Basin Resources. We could find no online presence by the company, but we did discover that this company has also purchased leases in Barry County as well, according to an article in the Hastings Banner back in April.

The next company on the list is Bishop Land Services. The company is based out of Mesick, Michigan appears to be a company that just obtains oil & gas leases on behalf of other companies, much like Western Land Services. The company does have a web address, but it was not working while this article was being written.

Another company that has purchased leases for oil & gas in Kent County in 2012 is PTERADON Energy. They registered to do business in Michigan on March 27, 2012.  They are a Delaware LLC that formed in January 2012. If you do an online search for Pteradon, there isn’t anything. There is a small reference to the company on a Michigan Better Business Bureau website that states they have an office in Traverse City. We do know that at the DNR Land Auction in May, Pteradon purchased the mineral rights to over 11,000 acres of public land in Michigan.

Central Michigan Exploration is a company based out of Meadville, Pennsylvania and like Western Land Services, had been contracted to purchase land leases for Chesapeake Energy Corp, according to an article in International Business Times.

Liverpool Production Company has been around since 1997 and is based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This company also purchased leases for oil & gas in Barry County within the past year and like many of these companies has virtually no online presence.

The last company we found information on that had purchased multiple leases for oil & gas in Kent County this year was Goodale Enterprises. Goodale has an office in Grand Rapids, but they also have no real online presence.

It seems pretty clear from this investigation that the companies which are purchasing leases for oil & mineral exploration in Kent County and other parts of Michigan do not want to make it easy for the public to find out anything about how they operate and who they are purchasing the leases for. This lack of transparency is yet another reason for people to be concerned about the increase in fossil fuel extraction throughout the state, particularly through the method of hydraulic fracturing.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Franz permalink
    October 31, 2012 1:13 pm

    The thrust by big oil to purchase leases on all lands held by the DNR is obviously a ruse to make more acreage available to them thus drivinjg down the costs of the ones they cherry pick later. We, the people, thus get ripped off twice, first by having our natural resources exploited at the detriment to our health and the environment, and also losing out on a fair share of the huge profits they will make from fracking.

  2. October 31, 2012 1:24 pm

    Mike, the leases I was reporting on was purchased from private land owners, not public land auctioned by the DNR. Just a clarification.

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