Courier Express: Marcellus drilling operation goes on display

PENFIELD – As the Marcellus Shale gas industry grows, many may have questions about the process, how to get involved and exactly what Marcellus Shale gas is.

Dignitaries, local businesses and the media were given the chance to take an inside look at the gas industry during a special lunch and tour at an active EOG Marcellus Shale gas well Friday.

The Clearfield County Economic Development Corporation’s Energy Team and the DuBois Chamber of Commerce set up the event as a way to educate people about the gas industry and to encourage more businesses to get involved.

Members of print, Internet and radio media attended the event, but television crews were only allowed in if they took still photos only, not video.

Several environmental groups were present at the event to protest the gas industry’s effect on the environment. Security was provided by Victory Security and the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources’ forest rangers. A Clearfield County Sheriff’s Department vehicle was also seen in the area.

At the luncheon, Patrick Henderson of Gov. Tom Corbett’s office said the gas industry is providing a service and helping the country move toward energy independence.

“We can stop sending money to people (countries) who do not like us,” Henderson said. He said the gas industry has 72,000 new hires across the state and is providing growth in areas of the state, which have seen no economic growth in decades.

“This is the first year in 100 (years) that we are an energy exporter,” Henderson said. He said the state wants to continue developing markets for the natural gas industry and wants to train and hire Pennsylvanians.

“We respect our natural resources. We all have to breath the air and drink the water. There is a perception that we don’t care about the environment,” Henderson said.

David Callahan of the Marcellus Shale Coalition said the purpose of Friday’s event is to allow people to see what happens at the well site “with their own eyes.

“Pennsylvania has the potential to play a major role in the natural gas industry,” Callahan said. “By 2015, Pennsylvania could be the second largest natural gas producer, second only to Texas. By 2020, Pennsylvania could be the number one gas producer in the country.”

He said the industry has the potential to create about 156,000 new jobs, an average annual income of $73,000 per household.

During the tour, Gary Smith, vice-president of EOG, said his company was asked to provide a location. He said it was the first event of this kind held in the area at Horizontal Well Drilling #4.

While some members of a protest group hiked to the site and shouted slogans, Smith said he was not surprised by the protesters.

“It’s their right and they are entitled to their opinion,” Smith said.

Smith said each well takes from two weeks to three or four months to drill, depending on how many wells are on each pad.

Drilling manager Jim Tilley said there are five wells presently on the pad and EOG is in the process of re-permitting for a sixth. Tilley said the wells are typically 500-1,000 feet apart, taping into several gas deposits at once.

Tilley said one of the benefits to horizontal drilling is there is a large area being mined for gas underground but a relatively small area of above-ground disturbance. Once drilling operations are finished and the well is up and running, above ground disturbance will be condensed to a smaller area. Once it is condensed, the area will be planted as a food-plot for deer and elk.

“DEP doesn’t make us do anything, EOG goes above and beyond what DEP tells us to do,” Smith said.

“The event went very well. There are over 300 business partners here who are wanting to get involved with the gas industry,” Rob Swales, executive director of the CCEDC, said.

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