VIENNA, W.Va. -Residents learned about the Marcellus Shale formation and how it may benefit the area at forums in Vienna Tuesday.
The Wood County Oil & Gas Forum held two sessions at Grand Pointe Conference Center. Each session was well attended by those interested in obtaining information
Speakers talked about the geology of the Marcellus Shale formation and what could be gained from it in terms of natural gas; the history of oil and gas production in this area and how it helped to build Parkersburg and Marietta; and legal issues facing landowners who are approached by companies to drill on their property as well as surface rights and mineral rights issues.
The Marcellus Shale formation stretches across 95,000 square miles from southern New York across Pennsylvania into western Maryland, West Virginia and eastern Ohio. The Marcellus Shale formation is becoming an economically viable source of natural gas because of technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
Robert Chase, professor and chairman of the petroleum studies and geology department at Marietta College, said there will be increases in natural gas production over the next couple of decades.
"Right now we are producing about 21.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in this country," he said. "It is going to increase steadily to 27 trillion cubic feet of gas a year by 2035.
"Most of that gas is going to come from rock formations we call shale."
Over the last 10 years the technology has been developed to get the gas out of that rock, Chase said of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
The technology has been successfully used in smaller shale deposits in Texas and Arkansas.
Chase used a map to show the Marcellus Shale formation was one of the biggest such formations in the country.
"It is in our backyard," he said. "The estimates of gas reserves in place in that shale is as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of gas and I have seen even bigger estimates than that."
The U.S. uses 22 trillion-25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year.
"We are talking about a 20-year supply of natural gas just in this one formation alone," Chase said.
In Pennsylvania, millions of dollars have been pumped into the economy and thousands of jobs created with the development of Marcellus Shale drilling, Chase said. "Over time, they think over 175,000 jobs will be created," he said.
People are concerned about the safety of their water wells. Chase described the process of drilling and how pipes are cemented in place to help ensure water is protected and how plastic barriers are installed around sites where drilling is taking place.
"These companies don't want to sour landowners to the work they are doing," Chase said. Companies are working to make the process as environmentally friendly as possible, he said.
Anyone who leases property for drilling can have clauses put in the lease for well testing at the company's expense.
Jerry James of Artex Oil Co. talked about how the oil and gas industry built this area in the 19th and 20th centuries. Peoples Bank was started by oil and gas producers. Marietta College is one of 18 schools nationwide that offers a major in petroleum studies as a result of those who built the oil industry in this area.
"This can be a game changer in creating more affordable energy if successful," he said of Marcellus Shale.
Whenever a recession has hit, the price of energy has gone up. Developing natural gas reserves here can help create jobs, James said.
Job development would occur not only in the natural gas industry, but other fields as well from car dealerships to hotels and restaurants, he said.
Attorney Richard Hudson spoke about the differences between ownership of land on the surface and ownership of what is underneath and how that can create tension among parties. Issues need to be worked out, he said.
A lease to drill on a property could have a time limit, but if the well is producing, terms could be made for leasing as long as the well is producing.