Chances are by now you've heard of the Marcellus Shale. And if so, maybe you're familiar with the once-in-a-generation kind of opportunity that the responsible development of the natural gas that resides within it presents for not only Clinton County and Pennsylvania, but our entire country and every single man, woman and child who lives here.
So what and where is this Marcellus Shale, how is the development of these resources strengthening our economy, and what are Marcellus employers doing to ensure our air, water and surrounding environment is protected and preserved? Good questions; here are some answers.
Stretching from New York's Southern Tier through much of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and into parts of Ohio and Virginia, the Marcellus Shale is a nearly 400 million year-old rock formation. While its depth varies across the region, the Marcellus is close to 6,000 feet below ground in Clinton County - with thousands of feet and millions of tons of impermeable rock separating the densely packed natural gas resources from much shallower groundwater aquifers closer to the surface.
KATHRYN Z. KLABER
Experts believe the Marcellus may well hold more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas - which, if true, would make it the second largest natural gas field in the entire world. Quite a number, isn't it - but what does it mean in real-world terms? Annually, the United States consumes between 23 and 25 billion cubic feet of natural gas. At current national consumption rates, the Marcellus should meet our nation's natural gas needs for nearly 20 years. Convert that energy to BTUs, and you've got a resource that packs more punch than 87 billion barrels of oil. That's more than Russia has, more than China has - by some estimates, it's even more than we have here in the United States.
But the development of these vast resources, and the economic and energy security opportunities and potentials they present, must be done responsibly. As an industry, we are committed to working tirelessly each day to be good stewards of our land and waterways. We are also taking steps to ensure our operations minimize disruptions and risks in and near energy-producing communities. After all, our families live in these areas too. And if we plan to remain here over the next 30 or 40 years it'll take to fully produce this resource, we know we'll need to be doing it right.
Unfortunately, even as we continue to educate citizens across the Commonwealth about the promise and potential of responsible shale gas production, misinformation - not based on facts or science - has created a host of questions and genuine concerns in many communities.
It's incumbent upon the industry to do more to engage and educate the communities they serve, and to give concerned citizens the tools and facts they need to better understand the fundamentals involved in developing the Marcellus. Starting with this column, it's our hope to be able to start this conversation in an earnest way - with regular columns in The Express, and a continuing dialogue with readers in the community who have questions or concerns related to the work that we're doing each and every day.
While modern shale gas production involves intricate engineering technologies and techniques, our industry's top priority is far less complex: Safely developing these clean-burning, job-creating resources in a way that benefits all Pennsylvanians - and protects the environment.
And while Marcellus development is still in the early stages, many of these benefits are already being realized. According to a recent study released by researchers at Penn State, our industry will help create nearly 212,000 jobs across the Commonwealth over the next decade. Last year alone, Marcellus development was responsible for the creation of 44,000 jobs. To date, landowners have received more than $1.7 billion in royalties and lease payments from Marcellus producers. And this production has also generated close to $400 million in state and local tax receipts - with that number expected to double this year. Many Pennsylvanians are also seeing lower energy rates because of this increase supply, allowing consumers to keep more of what they earn.
But in addition to the many benefits that this work makes possible, the industry also knows it has an obligation to mitigate, and if possible eliminate, the risks that come with the territory. We are, after all, talking about an industrial process. From developing industry-wide best practices, to working hand-in-hand with state regulators on new well-casing standards, to undertaking emergency response training programs with State Fire Commissioners Office - our industry is fully committed to protecting the environment and preparing our first-responders.
As Marcellus production expands, we are excited to continue this conversation on these pages, as well as in communities in Clinton County and across the Commonwealth. In the meantime, I'd encourage those interested in learning more to visit www.marcelluscoalition.org.
Our industry looks forward to the dialogue, and continuing to help leverage the Marcellus Shale's resources in a way that benefit each and every Pennsylvanian.
Kathryn Klaber is the president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition representing Marcellus Shale gas producers.