By Bob Weaver

A group of landowners in Wirt County have just taken the crown as the largest landowner coalition in the entire Marcellus and Utica Shale, according to Marcellus Drilling News.

The Wirt County Oil and Gas Group has solicited royalty owners with a total of an astonishing 227,000 acres for potential drillers in the wet gas area of the Marcellus, says the publication.

The royalty group will pool the properties to be bid for leasing, according to James Lydon, chairman of the group.

There are more than 550 individuals and companies involved with the group.

The Wirt County Oil and Gas Group brought together landowners, mineral rights holders and gas producers to formulate a lease option for those interested in having their property used in natural gas production in Wood, Ritchie, Calhoun, Roane, Jackson and Wirt counties.

"The goal is to develop large blocks of acreage that will be attractive to drilling companies that are developing the Marcellus Shale formation," Lydon said.

Lydon said the best deal he has seen was in Wetzel County where one owner received $6,000 per acre with a 20% royalty.

He said the lowest was a deal offered the Wood County Board of Education, $500 an acre with a 12 1/2% royalty.

The group is currently negotiating with producers regarding leasing.

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