Indie refiner to resume drilling for oil in W. Ky.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — An oil refining company that left the drilling business decades ago has started looking again for oil in southwestern Indiana and Western Kentucky.

CountryMark CEO Charles Smith said the company has partnered with Pioneer Oil Co. to drill in the Illinois Basin, a 53,000-square-mile depression under most of southern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and Western Kentucky. Drilling began last month in Spencer County, Ind., and was expected to follow in Posey County and in nearby Daviess County, Ky.

Indianapolis-based CountryMark's investment for the first round of drilling at the three sites will total about $4 million this year, Smith said. He estimated it will cost $300,000 or more to drill a single well.

Oil has been found at the Spencer County site, but the companies have not decided whether it will be profitable to continue, Pioneer Oil President Don Jones said.

"It will depend on how well we do and how much it costs to do the drilling whether we will continue or stop," Jones told the Courier & Press.

If drilling continues, CountryMark and Pioneer, which is based in Lawrenceville, Ill., could produce 40,000 to 50,000 barrels of crude oil in the next decade, Smith predicted.