EAST LIVERPOOL - Consol Energy Inc. is no longer a tenant at the Columbiana County Port Authority's industrial park in Leetonia.
The news came to light during last week's port authority meeting, when the board agreed to lease the space formerly occupied by Consol to another company.
Port authority CEO Tracy Drake said afterwards that the CNX Gas Co., Consol's natural gas division, advised him in writing the company was declining to renew its annual lease after it expired on March 31.
Drake said he called Consol officials immediately to determine if they were dissatisfied with the building or the lease. "They said they were happy with the building but they indicated it was an operational move," he said.
Consol/CNX agreed in March 2012 to begin leasing 10,000 square feet of office space at the World Trade Park in Leetonia, which was later increased by 2,610 square feet, with the annual lease payments totaling $252,199.
The location was to serve as Consol's field office as the company increased its oil and gas development efforts in eastern Ohio. Consol officials said at the time they intended to use the local office to focus on developing property under lease in Mahoning, Trumbull and Portage counties. In recent months BP and Halcon Energy Corp. announced they were pulling out of those areas, and Consol and Chesapeake Energy said it was cutting back on its oil and gas exploration in northern Ohio.
Drilling activity appears to have shifted to the counties south and west of Columbiana County because they hold productive wet gas formations. Drake believes this might be what is going on with Consol, and he expects companies with county leases will eventually resume developing these assets once drilling efforts in the other counties begin to wane.
"My suspicion is it doesn't mean we're being passed over ... It's not like we don't have the gas here. It's just not as wet as it is in the south," he said.
Drake told Consol they would be welcomed back anytime. "I told them I hope to see you back, and they said that's always a possibility," he said.
Meanwhile, the port authority agreed to lease some of the office space formally occupied by Consol to the Pennex Aluminum Co., which operates an aluminum extrusion plant in the industrial park.
Pennex announced last year it was undergoing a $33 million expansion that includes a new press line and specialized fabrication center. The plant employs 65 workers, and the expansion is expected to result in the creation of 75 more jobs.
Drake said Pennex needs some temporary office space during the expansion and will lease 3,215 square feet of office space and 2,000 square feet of support space on a monthly basis, for $2,810 per month.
The office space is in the 22,000-square-foot building that was originally supposed to serve as a network operations/data storage center for an information technologies company, but the project never really got off the ground.