Tests in Stokes County reveal signs of natural gas and shale oil


credit: Calvin Beale, Stokes County Courthouse

STOKES COUNTY – Early tests indicate that property in Stokes County may eventually prove to be a resource of natural gas. The early test was conducted by the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, which says that until the legislature settles on a final budget, more testing is on hold.

“Preliminary review of the core drilling samples indicated that natural gas and oil resources exist in the Stokes County area, but those samples need to be analyzed by a third-party lab before a determination can be made,” said DENR Energy Communications Director Stephanie Hawco. “The General Assembly provided funding for the core drilling but not for the testing that is needed to reach a scientific conclusion. The governor’s budget includes funding for analysis of the core samples, so we hope to move forward with the testing once we have a budget.”

The test results came out the same week as a Stokes County public comment meeting on Monday, where about two dozen residents expressed their concerns to county commissioners about the safety of well water if energy exploration projects begin in their area. They asked commissioners to require a minimum setback from wells for any drilling operations.

Some say the need for local ordinances might be some time off. Further testing can’t move forward because there is no money for it and cutting through permitting red tape would also take a while.

“Permitting for oil and gas drilling wouldn’t occur until an operator has received approval from the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC),” said Hawco. “If the drilling unit is approved, the operator would submit an application package, which would undergo both departmental and commission review before a permit could be issued. Due to legislative and rule requirements, the process of application review could take as long as six months.”

As of today, DENR says it has received no drilling unit applications or complete Oil or Gas Well Permit applications.