Natural Gas in America
A large factor in America's ability to reduce foreign dependence has been the recent technological advancements in natural gas drilling in the United States. For years, our nation has known about massive amounts of natural gas trapped within shale rock deep below the surface, but engineers were unable to find an economically viable path to tap the natural gas until recently. Advances in the process of hydraulic fracturing, "fracking", as well as improvements in horizontal drilling have opened the floodgates for private drilling companies to tap the "gaseous gold."
Natural Gas Productivity
The northeastern portion of the United States has large quantities of natural gas within what is known as the Marcellus Shale region. States such as New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia are now booming with production, leasing of private land, and construction of pipelines to transport the newly tapped energy source. The U.S. Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Early Release projects U.S. natural gas production to increase from 23.0 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 33.1 trillion cubic feet in 2040, a 44% increase. Almost all of the increase in domestic natural gas production is due to projected growth in shale gas production, which is projected to increase from 7.8 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 16.7 trillion cubic feet in 2040.
Natural Gas Production in Pennsylvania
As the nation continues to recover from the Great Recession, many people yearn for the rapid expansion of any industry which will produce jobs and keep thousands of more people from facing the hard reality of foreclosure, unemployment, and financial ruin. The timing of the eruption of natural gas suppliers moving into Pennsylvania to tap the once impossible source of energy has been met with fear, anger, and the open arms of desperation for those people suffering from joblessness or dire financial straits. The competing emotions of fear and excitement have created many lawsuits, battles between neighbors, and an endless media barrage of any and all accidents or mishaps that are a result of the new industry in town. Towns that were once quiet pockets of people tucked away in the mountains have seen thousands of trucks, hefty royalty payments, and even contaminated drinking water as a result of natural gas drilling.
Several factors including an increase in natural gas prices, technological advancement in horizontal drilling, and developments in the process of hydraulic fracturing made the Marcellus Shale natural gas profitable and thus desired by private gas companies. The first well drilled in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region was the "Renz" well drilled in Washington County in 2004. Since 2004, the number of unconventional wells has grown to over 5,200 as of December 2011. The drilling is most concentrated in northern Pennsylvania and also in the southwestern counties.
The next portion of this blog will cover the evolution of Pennsylvania Laws and Regulations leading up to the implementation of ACT 13.
All sections of the 5-part series are cited in original document titled The Effect of the Natural Gas Boom in Pennsylvania by Dan Mulhern. Written in 2012.