Posts Tagged ‘Pike’

Shale drilling in Monroe, Pike on the horizon

Experts say area should prepare because drilling is not far off

Pocono Record Writer
August 20, 2010

SCRANTON — Drilling for natural gas in Marcellus Shale in Monroe and Pike counties? It’s not a question of if, but when.

That was the word from around the state Thursday at a forum at Marywood University, where experts said the region is rich in the valuable fossil fuel.

The bulk of the drilling now in northeast Pennsylvania is along the northern tier but could eventually extend into the Poconos.

Kathryn Zuberbuhler Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said areas more conducive to the entire operation — including roads and pipeline — are the first areas that will be drilled. Once more companies get involved and more money is available, drilling could expand to other parts of the state that haven’t seen it yet.

“There’s only so much capital right now,” she said. “By its nature, you’re going to see that concentrated development.”

Currently, there are no Marcellus Shale drilling operations in Monroe or Pike counties. There is only one in Wayne County.

One roadblock from local drilling right now is the Delaware River Basin Commission, which stopped issuing drilling permits in 2009 until it can formulate a list of regulations gas companies must meet.

Clarke Rupert, spokesman for the DRBC, said the commission hopes to have those regulations finalized by the end of the summer and adopted by the end of the year, admitting that’s an “optimistic” schedule.

Marcellus Shale is found in most of Pennsylvania and parts of New York and West Virginia, about 5,000 to 8,000 feet below the surface. It had been considered too expensive to drill, but advances in technology and the rising cost of natural gas made it more attractive, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The new method of drilling — hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking” — uses large amounts of water mixed with sand and other items to fracture the shale and allow the gas to flow, according to the DEP. The water used is then treated before it is released back into the water system.

However, residents near some drilling operations have complained that local water supplies have been damaged. That’s led to some in the state to wonder if this is another coal industry, which ravaged the land of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area before it was gone.

U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-11, called the shale movement “our second chance” to correct the mistakes of the coal industry.

“Don’t exploit us, and we’ll work with you,” he said our message should be to gas companies. “Exploit us, and you don’t know the (bother) we can be to you.”

John Quigley, secretary of the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said about half of Pennsylvania’s state parks are in areas where Marcellus Shale is thought to be present, and about 700,000 of the 2.1 million acres of state forest land already is leased by gas companies.

He called for the state to stop issuing permits to gas companies until there is more known about the industry.

“Frankly, I think we need to take more than a timeout, we need to take a stop,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., encouraged local government leaders who may not have many avenues of protecting themselves to write and even pressure their state and federal representatives to make sure the Marcellus Shale industry is regulated.

“There is almost no area that can look and say, ‘That’s someone else’s problem,’” he said. “We all have to do what we can to make sure this is done the right way.”

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Copyright:  Pocono Record

Environmental, safety violations found on scores of water trucks serving gas wells

Published: June 24, 2010

Pennsylvania authorities found environmental and safety violations on more than 130 trucks hauling wastewater from natural gas wells during a three-day enforcement blitz last week, the state Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

Overall, officials inspected 1,137 trucks between June 14 and 16 during the multi-agency operation, which was focused on Marcellus Shale drilling sites. Of the 210 commercial vehicles ordered out of service for violations, 131 were transporting wastewater used in the process called hydraulic fracturing.

The added enforcement has been made necessary by the growing gas industry’s heavy truck traffic, especially in rural counties, state police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski said in a statement.

Also participating was the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In Troop R – which covers Lackawanna, Pike, Susquehanna and Wayne counties – officials shut down 25 vehicles and issued 141 citations during 142 inspections.

Sixty-six vehicles were shut down and 358 citations issued in 166 inspections within Troop P, which covers Bradford, Sullivan, Wyoming and part of Luzerne counties.

One hundred nineteen vehicles were shut down in western and central Pennsylvania.

Inspectors especially looked for safety deficiencies that could lead to crashes, authorities said.

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Copyright: The Scranton Times

State-owned parcels eyed for gas deposits

By Tom
Sports Reporter

Private landowners aren’t the only group being eyed by natural gas companies as potential lease partners.

Companies are also targeting two of the largest landowners in the region – the Pennsylvania Game Commission and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, hoping to develop the vast gas deposits they suspect sit below the surface.

Officials with both agencies say interest in their property – which totals thousands of acres in the region — is extremely high. Royalties and payments that companies are willing to offer to lease the land are also high, but that doesn’t mean the agencies are ready to sign on the dotted line.

Both agencies control their own destinies on those properties where they own the surface and subsurface mineral rights. When some of the properties were purchased years ago, the seller held onto the mineral rights. But on those state game lands where the Pennsylvania Game Commission owns the gas rights, numerous drilling companies have contacted the agency about its property in the northeast. The attempts have been aggressive, according to Mike DiMatteo, a geologist with the Game Commission’s oil, gas and mineral recovery program.

“Some of them came in and drew a circle from Tioga County down to Centre and over to Wayne and Pike,” DiMatteo said. “They are interested in leasing large areas.”

And the Game Commission is interested in what they have to offer … with conditions.

DiMatteo said the presence of the Marcellus shale layer under the surface of Northeastern Pennsylvania is believed to hold significant deposits of natural gas. The companies want the gas, which is at a record high price, but they need the land to access the layer of shale thousands of feet below the surface.

State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Mark Carmon said his office has issued less than a half dozen permits for gas drilling in the Northeast and most of the interest is in Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

Despite the high interest, the Game Commission has so far entered into one lease agreement in the Northeast (State Game Lands 123 in Bradford County). DiMatteo said two more agreements are in the works and they are looking at more.

He added it’s too early to tell how much revenue natural gas wells would generate for the agency because the process is in the exploratory stage.

Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said the agency receives an average of $2 million to $3 million a year, up significantly from an annual average of $300,000 a couple years ago. Most of that revenue is generated from active wells in the southwest and north central parts of the state.

“There hasn’t been enough development in the Marcellus formation yet to know what a typical well will produce. The companies are pretty tight-lipped about what’s there, so it’s hard to put a dollar value on the potential reserve,” DiMatteo said.

Based on the agency’s experience with wells drilled on game lands in other areas, they know what to include in a lease to protect wildlife and habitat. The agency prefers companies utilize existing timber and maintenance roads to access their wells, and areas such as wetlands, unique habitats and places holding threatened or endangered species are avoided.

Before a lease is signed, the agency conducts a resource recovery questionnaire of the game lands to assess the pros and cons. Leases typically last for five years or as long as the well is producing.

“In some areas we find we can’t take a risk with the habitat, so we won’t have any activity there,” DiMatteo said.

When the well is taken out of production, it must be capped and the area and access road must be seeded as a wildlife food plot or used as forest cover.

Like the Game Commission, the DCNR is open to the prospect of natural gas drilling on its property – just not right now. According to Teddy Borawski, minerals section chief with the Bureau of Forestry, the agency isn’t entering into any lease agreements until it completes an internal study on the matter.

The agency has wells operating from past lease agreements, and when it determines which properties it wants to make available for additional leases they will be put out for bids.

“There’s a very large amount of interest in state forest and state park land in the northeast,” Borawski said.

State park lands are off limits to gas drilling because the practice would conflict with the recreational use of the property, he added.

Borawski said leases entered into with his agency carry the strongest environmental stipulations in the state. They include a stringent environmental review, an exceedance of DEP regulations, safeguards against surface and groundwater contamination and significant setbacks from streams.

State forest and state game lands are attractive to gas companies because it is more efficient to lease large, contiguous blocks of land. Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, said drilling goes as deep as 8,000 feet and extends horizontally several thousand feet, which can cover a few acres. Companies also conduct seismic exploration before they drill, and a large area is needed for the research.

Rhoads criticized DCNR’s move to wait to enter into lease agreements, because it benefited financially from the practice in the past.

“The impact of oil and gas development on the surface is trivial. There is no chronic environmental impact,” he said. “There is a more significant impact to DCNR putting wind turbines on their ridge tops.”

While DCNCR continues to study the matter, DiMatteo said the Game Commission may be ready to seek more bids in the next few months. To wait for the price of gas to increase, he said, is too much of a risk because the Marcellus formation may prove not to be profitable once drilling commences.

“These wells could be a boom or a bust. We’re willing to listen and explore, but we’ll approach it with caution,” Feaser said.

Properties breakdown

Mike DiMatteo said most of the interest in gas drilling has been for Game Lands located in Bradford, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Here is a breakdown of how much property the Game Commission owns in those counties:

Bradford County: 53,429 acres

Columbia County: 21,532 acres

Pike County: 24,467 acres

Sullivan County: 57,752 acres

Susquehanna County: 14,358 acres

Wayne County: 20,637 acres

Tom Venesky, a Times Leader outdoors writer, can be reached at 829-7230

Copyright: Times Leader