Energy and Technology: Bakken, Barnett, Marcellus

By May 20, 2008Energy

marcellus-shale-map.gifNational Association of Manufacturers President John Engler is headed to U.S. energy hot post today to speak to the Manufacturers’ Association of Central Pennsylvania at the group’s annual meeting in Williamsport.

There’s an intense interest and negotiating over what appears to be the next big natural gas play in the United States, the Marcellus Shale. From USA Today:

Geologists and energy companies have known for decades about the gas in the Marcellus Shale, but only recently have figured out a possible — though expensive — way to extract it from the thick black rock about 6,000 feet underground.

Like prospectors mining for gold, energy executives must decide whether the prize is worth the huge investment.

“This is a very real prospect, very real,” said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association. “This could be a very significant year for this.”

Judging by the stories in the local paper, The Sun-Gazette, the decision has been reached.

  • County may sit on one natural gas mother lode
  • Big interest; huge potential
  • Planning Commission updated on gas drilling
  • According to a Penn State extension specialist quoted in the last story, the energy industry intends to spend $1 billion this year in the Appalachian Basin, and local per acre lease rates have jumped from $15 to $300 to $1,500. And a landower from make upwards of $800,000 a year with a producing well in his property.

    Interest is especially high because the Marcellus formation closely resembles the Barnett Shale formation in Texas, now the biggest natural gas play in the country, but the gas is closer to the East Coast markets. Technological advances in the form of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fractionation have made energy accessible at a high, but still profitable cost. (The same technology is at use the Bakken oil formation in the northern Great Plains.)

    As the USA Today story notes, expensive. Thank goodness for energy company profits.

    The boss makes a point, too, about accessing the natural gas: It’s a good thing this round of energy development doesn’t have to go to Congress for approval. They’d probably vote no.

    (A good primer on the formation is available at, where we found the map. Excellent resource.)

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