Is There Oil Under Rochester Hills? A Michigan Company Wants to Drill to Find Out

City leaders debate letting a Traverse City company drill for oil on city-owned land near Tienken and Adams.

Representatives of a Michigan oil and gas company say there's oil under Rochester Hills. That's why they're asking some city residents — and city leaders — for permission to drill.

This week, representatives of Jordan Development Company presented their case to Rochester Hills City Council, which is being asked to approve a lease of mineral rights to some city-owned land.

The city's approval would allow Jordan Development to drill under the land then pay the city royalties for any oil that is found there. 

Jordan Development is a Traverse City-based company founded in 1996, that operates more than 450 oil and gas wells throughout Michigan.

After expressing concerns about residents' feedback, the city charter and parks amendment, city council members agreed Monday night to a tentative approval of the lease; they asked for a finalized lease, an opinion from the city attorney and a detailed description of the city-owned land.

The motion passed six to one, with councilmember Ravi Yalamanchi casting the lone dissenting vote. 

"I'm not ready tonight," Yalamanchi said after expressing concern for local homeowners. "Somebody's home, to me, is of more value than anything else."

At least one of the dozen residents left in the audience during the Monday meeting applauded. "If they don't say yes there's no way I can say yes to this."

'We believe there are minerals to be found'

Jordan Development Vice President Ben Brower presented to city council. 

"We believe there are minerals to be found under some Rochester Hills properties," Brower said. "A couple of those we would like to ask for a lease from you folks."

The city-owned properties are in the area of Tienken and Adams. (After Brower discovered during the meeting that one of the properties in question actually belongs to the city of Rochester, City Council President Greg Hooper asked him to clearly define the properties when he returns.)

Based on seismic testing that occurred early this year, these sites most likely contain oil, Jordan Development researchers have said. 

If city leaders agree to the lease, Jordan Development will pay the city $150 per acre as a signing bonus. The city would then earn additional royalties if oil is found.

For example, Brower said a well on 40 acres at Crooks and Square Lake roads has paid just under $10 million in royalties over nine years to its land owners, which are Michigan State University and the State of Michigan. 

No fracking

Brower said most questions the company answers about drilling projects are related to the environmental impact. The State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would have jurisdiction over the drilling project in Rochester Hills as they do for all oil and gas projects in the state.

The MDEQ has specific requirements to protect groundwater and for containment in case of spills. 

Brower said there have been no incidents in Jordan Development's history. 

"There's a lot of talk about fracking and we have no intention to frack," Brower said.

"Fracking" is a term used for hydraulic fracturing, a process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas. The process is controversial because of the possibility of air pollution and toxic chemicals entering the local water supply.

"We will put it in the lease: 'No fracking,' " he said.

Horizontal drilling

Members of City Council made it clear throughout the meeting that they had no interest in having surface structures, drills or well heads on city land — especially in city parks.

Brower said many property owners in area subdivisions have already been contacted for leasing and with the number of small lots, it was "almost a for sure thing" that the oil would be horizontally drilled. 

Horizontal drilling allows for the direct drilling of wells in the earth laterally instead of vertically. This also allows the well to be located off-site. A 1-acre space is needed for drilling.

Brower said the company can typically drill 3,000 to 3,500 feet horizontally — and even 5,000 feet is feasible. The maximum drill area is two miles. 

"We've had to get creative but we have never not drilled a well because we couldn't find a location for the drill," Brower said.

Jordan Development drilled in White Lake in August. 

"I would recommend you contact people we've drilled on," Brower said. "We've had no complaints, no incidents, there's no smell, no lights."

There is "some sound, like vehicle traffic" during the three to four weeks the drilling takes place, but once the production well is installed there is no sound, according to Brower.

When the one-time drilling is complete, a well head about 6-feet-tall takes the rig's place. Brower described it as similar to a Christmas tree; it is surrounded by security fencing but can be additionally landscaped. The oil is "shipped to market via pipeline."

Private property

In addition to approaching City Council, Jordan Development mass-mailed leases to residents and has also been going door-to-door talking with Rochester Hills property owners, primarily in the Tienken/Adams area, to try to secure leases to their mineral rights. More residents will be contacted, according to Brower.

"We've got quite a few leases," Brower said to the City Council. "We're buying leases every day."

Brower said that no matter what City Council decides about the city-owned land, Jordan Development will continue to move forward with obtaining leases from private property owners.

"This is a civil thing between the property owners and this company," the city's director of planning, Ed Anzek, said. 

The next Rochester Hills City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 12.

Lisa October 26, 2012 at 11:47 AM
We need to know what the exact difference is between this drilling process and hydraulic fracturing. Just because it isn't called fracking, doesn't mean it's safe. Will there be waste production and will it be buried nearby? What about the use and storage of toxic chemicals? There are too many unknowns that could possibly affect residents such as, possible water contamination, laying of pipelines, clearing of vegetation, building of roads and well pads, heavy truck traffic. These operations can change property values and our health forever.
Barbara Krueger October 26, 2012 at 01:24 PM
I live in the Adams/Tienken area and no body has come to me door. This sounds like another episode of the "tuna" can that was going on the city-owned property at Adams/Tienken. Our mayor must lay awake nights dreaming up these things.
Tim October 26, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I am assuming these are unproven reserves at this point? Also the oil apparently will be "shipped to market via pipeline"; I find that interesting because as far as I know the existing piping infrastructure in Rochester Hills is for natural gas distribution and not crude oil.
Dave Mulford October 26, 2012 at 02:09 PM
This is a wonderful opportunity for our community. Looking forward ... what could the income be used for? Advanced LED or plasma lighting? a waste to energy plant? Advanced solar or bio energy plants? How about geo-thermal? ... Like I said, this is a wonderful and exciting time for our community. Let's move forward! - DM.
Anne Mleczek October 26, 2012 at 06:05 PM
So how would the oil get from Tienken and Adams to the existing pipeline? Maps on the state of MI website show that pipeline to be near to Square Lake and I75. The devil is in the details...
Lisa October 28, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Barbara, they have come to my door and all my neighbors' doors. They mailed the lease proposal, and have called our homes. Landservices / West Bay Exploration Oil and Gas are making an appearance at our Brookedale Woods Subdivision Meeting in November. Beware, they're selling hard.
Linda Pannuto October 28, 2012 at 11:22 AM
I am always suspect of something that is presented as so obviously a good thing - I would hope that our representatives would be looking at the long-term effects and not just the immediate monetary return.
Brian October 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM
They stopped by my door last night (on Rolling Green Circle South). I had previously received the lease document and wrote it off as sketchy. Nice fellow, answered any questions I had. My concern with not signing is they can still get the oil from under me as long as they have 51% of my neighbors signed up. I'd like to know exactly who they are contact so we can meet as a group to discuss it. Also the terms aren't "set" they mentioned in another article better terms could be negotiated.
Laura Cassar October 30, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Hi Brian, Did the representative say 51% because my understanding is that there is no number set in stone, that it's more of a judgement call by the DEQ. Also I know the Brookdale Woods Neighborhood Association was having a meeting and inviting Jordan representatives to speak at it. You may want to contact your president.
atoz October 30, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I can tell you that fracking is really dangerous for the surrounding area. They basically blast the rock apart underground with high pressure. Fracking has caused massive sinkholes and giant openings in the earth. If you think about it, blasting all the rock apart causes the ground above to be unstable. They dont inject any hardening agents into the ground afterward so you have lost integrity in the ground. Kinda like digging a tunnel underground without shoring up the inside of the tunnel, it will cave in eventually.
atoz October 30, 2012 at 03:25 PM
more trucks that should not be on the roads that cannot handle them = more crumbling roads = more construction like we have now with basically every North South road in Rochester under construction. Horrible. They relly need to implement a step down process for trucking. All shipments should be "stepped down" into smaller trucks and the smaller trucks take the freight to a central depot near the freeways that can handle those heavy loads. Then semi trucks leave out of the central depot. Same in reverse...just sayin. :)
Erin November 09, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Laura - is any part of this discussion on the Nov. 12 agenda? If not, I suppose folks could still talk about it in Public Comments.
Curt November 15, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I went to the Brookdale woods meeting last night, and the reps were very vague about almost every question that was asked. I think that you should think about everything BAD that could happen because of this drilling, I doubt that the potetial property value loss after a spill or the waste pollution would be offset by any royalty checks that you might expect to see. I also doubt that an individual homeowner would recieve enough in lease payments to offset their cable or cell phone bills...........is it realy worth the risk
Erin November 16, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Curt - specifically, what questions went unanswered by Jordan reps?
Lisa Rutherford November 16, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I will tell you the question they DID answer. They stated the lease they are offering to residents DOES NOT and WILL NOT guaranteed against hydraulic fracturing or "fracking". This is in direct contradiction to the information in Mayor Barnett's letter, page one, bullet point 8. "The City has been assured, and the letter states, that this process does not include Hydraulic Fracturing..." I was at the meeting as well, Brookedale Woods is my subdivision. West Bay Inc. that was at the meeting, they are just the leasing company, not the drilling company. There were many questions that went unanswered including: Where is the proposed drilling site? How long will the large drilling apparatus be present before a smaller one is put in place? How will any oil be transported out of our area? West Bay spoke of phases of the drilling process but then could not answer how many phases would be used near us nor could they tell us the duration of the phases. This is a big problem. We need to think about what is going on underneath our homes. It seems like many residents are concerned only with the appearance and "smell" of this process. That and how they can make an easy dime. What are the risks? Take a look at http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/ I don't trust a company that tells our Mayor and city council one thing and then backtracks upon direct questioning.
karen Mountz December 21, 2012 at 06:48 AM
http://cleanwater.org/page/fracking-dangers I hope to be informed of any additional plans from this group; may become a Nimby.
colleen mcginely May 09, 2013 at 12:11 AM
don't go to meeting you are encouraging them by doing so. instead picket in front of building with signs.
Cheryl Junker May 09, 2013 at 11:19 AM
This lease signing for mineral rights is going on all over south east Michigan. Ask yourself why NOW? They have done seismic testing in the past and nothing was done. But GUESS WHAT?.......We have NEW technology now.......and it is called HORIZONTAL HYDRAULIC FRACTURING! Believe me, they will go ahead with it AT ALL COSTS when they get enough mineral rights leased. There are NO BOUNDARIES and NO LIMITS! COLLEEN is right, the ONLY WAY to stop FRACKING is to NOT SIGN........and BAN IT!


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