Happy Birthday, Marcellus Shale!

Marcellus Shale Well

*This article originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Magazine*

This month marked the 10-year anniversary of the first well ever drilled into the Marcellus Shale. Today, with over 8,000 Marcellus wells developed in Pennsylvania, the state now produces over 16 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. This development has created jobs, strengthened Pennsylvania’s economy and has helped put the United States back on the road to recovery. To commemorate the success of the Marcellus Shale in Washington County, the Chamber of Commerce held a gala where local politicians and industry representatives were invited to speak.

A couple of the more widely known speakers included Nissa Darbonne, Editor-at-Large of Oil and Gas Investor and the author of The American Shales, and Ezra Levant, TV host and author of a book on hydraulic fracturing called Groundswell. Ezra is well known in the region for his segment on hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, which aired on The Source, a Canadian news program, back in July.

The MC for evening was the President of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Jeff Kotula. He highlighted the change in the energy conversation that’s taken place over the last 10 years because of domestic shale development.

“Moreover, the deployment of directional drilling and fracturing techniques in the Marcellus as well as shale formations in places like North Dakota and Texas has literally changed America’s conversation about energy. Where once we spoke in worried terms about growing dependence on unstable areas of the world for our energy, we now talk about energy independence and exporting oil and gas to global markets because America will soon be the world’s largest oil and gas producing country.”

Nissa Darbonne also highlighted the fact that 20 years ago, when developing the Marcellus Shale wasn’t even an idea, our energy future looked bleak. The United States was building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on our coasts to import resources from other parts of the world.

“Think of coal bed methane wells, and those were pretty much all we had hope for in the 1990s in terms of a natural gas future in this country. And you had to drill about 10,000 of those to make the equivalent of one Marcellus Shale well.”

Our resources seemed to be dwindling, and then good old American innovation came into play.   New technology and more efficient operations have contributed to the Marcellus Shale’s incredible production, allowing us to produce the most domestic energy this country has ever seen.

David Spigelmyer, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, touched on some of the vast benefits the continued development of the Marcellus Shale is bringing to consumers:

“It wasn’t until 2008 that we really kicked off this development and your natural gas rates in 2008 were nearly $20 at the burner tip, this year they’ll be less than half of that in your home. It’s a real celebration to not only burn a product at half the price in 2008 but to look at the reductions we’re seeing at the pumped as well.”

Consumer benefits of shale development aren’t just being felt near the well head but rippling across the United States in the form of decreased air pollution in areas utilizing our abundance of natural gas, and affordable energy.

“It’s because of our energy prices that we’re far more competitive in the world today and we will be more competitive in the world tomorrow,” Spigelmyer notes. “I also want to point out that it’s abundant, it’s clean and it’s ours. …It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to really make some progress towards lessening our dependence on foreign sources of oil and as Congressman Murphy said, to trade in that helmet abroad for a hard hat home is an amazing thing.”

Increased production of oil and gas here on American soil has decreased our reliance on resources from more volatile parts of the world. Author Ezra Levant addressed these energy security issues in his discussion on “conflict oil”, and how developing our own domestic resources will lead us to a future free of dependence on foreign countries.

“There are two possible futures here. One is a future run by enemies of freedom, I call it conflict oil, conflict gas and live like North Korea. Energy poverty is what it’s called. That’s one possible future. The other is a future that you live everyday here in Washington County. Cheap, plentiful, clean; so cheap that industries are re-shoring and coming back from high energy costs jurisdictions, back to America,” Ezra stated.

“And where we’re finally free of OPEC and Russia. I’m truly honored to be here in the heart of fracking and I love telling your story.”

After listening to the speakers the theme for the night was clear: transformation. The natural gas and oil industry has not only transformed itself through better practices and innovation, but it has transformed the United States into an energy super power.

That’s something we can all celebrate as we commemorate the well that started it all.

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