Gas Industry Will Be Vibrant Locally For Several Decades

From Potter County Today

jan2011taskforce-005A representative of the world’s second-biggest energy company painted a rosy picture of the local natural gas industry while a local organization spearheaded by the Potter County Board of Commissioners moved forward with a plan to provide some coordinated environmental oversight.  Jack Showers (left), director of community relations/regional affairs for East Resources/Royal Dutch Shell, spotlighted the latest developments in Marcellus Shale gas drilling during a presentation to the Potter County Natural Gas Task Force. More than 65 people braved a snowstorm to attend.

Entry of Royal Dutch Shell into the Appalachian Basin sent a loud message about the economic viability of Marcellus Shale natural gas. Shell paid $4.7 billion to acquire approximately 650,000 acres of East Resources rights in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. Much of the acreage is located in Tioga County, although East has drilled two Marcellus wells in Potter County so far and is pleased with the results, Showers said.

A native of Texas who has moved to Tioga County, Showers said that once pipelines and other infrastructure are in place, the gas industry is going to explode in the region with hundreds of wells being drilled. Production will rapidly rise and, by early 2014, Pennsylvania will become a net exporter of gas. Job opportunities will abound, from field workers, welders and truck drivers to professional careers such as biology, chemistry, geology, accounting, law and at least four engineering tracks — mechanical, electrical, environmental and petroleum.

And it’s not just the Marcellus Shale that is attracting energy companies, Showers said. The Utica Shale formation, some 2,000 feet deeper, also contains rich gas deposits. There’s enough gas to sustain a vibrant local industry for several decades, he said. Additionally, there are about 25 other shale formations in the country from which gas is being produced. Showers said natural gas will increasingly be used to generate electricity and to power motor vehicles, reducing consumption of coal and oil while making American more energy-independent.

He expressed confidence that Pennsylvania’s water supplies are plentiful enough to meet the industry’s needs and pointed out that most gas producers are now recycling water used for hydrofracturing and trucking the residual waste out of state for deep underground injection. One audience member pointed out that water withdrawals from small headwaters streams can have a more significant impact than the industry tends to acknowledge and that — unlike the Susquehanna and Delaware river basins — the Allegheny river basin is not regulated by a multi-state compact.

Commissioner Doug Morley announced that he and Commissioners Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover are assembling a panel to coordinate both the volunteer and agency activities for protection of water resources in the county. Among organizations that will be represented are Trout Unlimited, Potter County Conservation District, Penn State Cooperative Extension, local watershed protection associations, along with a water expert and a retired Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection specialist.

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