31 May 2015

Indiana Seeks Payoff From Oil After RFRA

When December numbers are tallied, 2015 is likely to be the most bountiful year for bubbling crude in Indiana since the 2.43 million barrels of oil produced in 1997.

The 18-year high wouldn’t have happened if not for the unprecedented passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that inspired major players, such as Indianapolis-based Citizens Energy Group and the 80,000 barrels of oil it filled last year. And there’s refiner CountryMark, which manages 1,400 oil wells producing 3,500 barrels a day.

The mini-boom in Indiana oil production is also being financed by private and Christian investors with heretofore little knowledge of the oil business—people like Steve Wade, director of business development at DeSeranno Wealth Planning, in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.

Wade and some business buddies have been quick studies and invested in dozens of wells through Indianapolis-based Midwest Energy Partners, formed six years ago by former CountryMark executive Bill Herrick.

"Immediately, you think 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' you know?" Wade said.

Collecting nearly US$ 30 million for drilling projects since 2009, Midwest recently closed two more rounds that raised a total of US$ 7 million.

Many of these Christian investors are getting in while the gettin’s good, with a barrel of U.S. crude averaging about US$ 97 last year vs. US$ 62 in 2009. Production economics have also improved, with newer drilling and high-tech exploration techniques.

The biggest challenge, oddly enough, might be in getting anyone to believe that the Indiana economy is growing fast after the Governor enacted the new law.