Appalachian Basin

Energy In Depth provides “Joint Producer Tour” of Marcellus Shale Operations

Johnny Williams
Staff Writer, Northeast Driller

***Originally published in the Northeast Driller***

Energy In Depth (EID), an affiliation of many oil and natural gas associations across the country, held a “joint producer tour” which featured guided and informative tours of various natural gas locations across Bradford, Susquehanna, and Sullivan Counties. The entirety of the tour was to originally feature a site by Chief Oil & Gas, a hydraulic fracturing site by Chesapeake Energy, a compressor station by Talisman Energy, and a well site currently in production by Cabot Oil & Gas. However, due to unforeseen detours and the resulting navigational problems, the stop to the compressor station had to be cancelled, as did testimonies of landowners in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

However, the tour was still highly informative and media and officials from as far away as Rhode Island and North Carolina attended the tour, which lasted from 7am until 6pm.

“We’re happy about all the people who have joined us and we feel honored to have people come from such distances to take part in this tour,” said John Krohn, Communications Director for the Energy In Depth Northeast Marcellus Initiative. Krohn was the overall guide of the tour. “This is an informational and educational tour that will hopefully answer many of the questions that you may have about the gas industry.”

Each person was provided two bags. One bag contained steel-toed boots, safety jackets, ear plugs and safety glasses, while the other bag contained a wealth of information from each of the companies involved in the tour, which ranged from a “Frequently Asked Questions” booklet from Cabot, a pamphlet describing Talisman’s Good Neighbor program, a highly detailed folder from Chief that contained even more informational booklets that ranged in topics from community concerns and leasing information to the well development process to pipelines and compressor stations. Chesapeake provided an informational DVD focused on the Marcellus Shale.

Transportation was provided in the form of buses, and, after leaving the original meeting point at the Riverstone Inn in Wysox, the first stop of the tour was a rig that was operated by Chief in Monroe Township.

“We’re in the early stages of this operation,” Joe Wigton of United Drilling said. “Right now, we’re preparing and testing our blowout preventers.”

After a brief introduction, the tour was broken into two groups and they were guided around the rig by members of Chief, who described specific pieces of equipment and answering questions along the way. The groups were informed on Chief’s safety policies on both workers and the environment.

“Many of the precautions and aspects of safety that Chief takes are not required by regulations,” said drilling engineer Jarrett Toms. “This is one way to show that Chief goes above and beyond what is expected to ensure safe development in the Marcellus Shale.”

After the walk-around of the rig was concluded, members of Chief took questions and participated actively in the conversations resulting from the tour before it was time to move on to the next stop: a Chesapeake Energy hydraulic fracturing site.

During the trip, an educational video was provided by Chesapeake to provide information on the process of fracing and its purpose in the natural gas development process.

The trip ended in Sullivan County on the Lambert well pad. Representatives from Chesapeake were awaiting the two buses, and the attendants were greeted by them when they got off the bus.

“We are here to help you understand the process of hydraulic fracturing,” Brian Grove, senior director of corporate development, said over the roar of engines.”We know that this process has caused controversy because it is believed to threaten the groundwater within its vicinity, so hopefully the information that you gather today will shed some light on this.”

Again, the attendants were broken into groups and led around the fracing site. Grove went into detail describing the equipment used and noted the importance that Chesapeake stresses in containing the chemicals that is used in fracing and the wastewater that results from it.

“That is our biggest caution, the containment and careful use of the materials used during fracing,” he said. “The largest danger is not within the fracing process, itself, but in the handling of materials.”

The tour of the fracing site concluded much like Chief’s: questions and conversations among the tour attendants and Chesapeake’s representatives.

“I want to thank everyone for coming and also extend a thanks to EID for conducting this tour,” Grove said. “Hopefully, we answered your questions and you’re able to leave here with a sound knowledge of hydraulic fracing.”

The buses then departed for a lunch break that would be held at the Wysox Fire Hall. During that trip, Tony Ventello, Executive Director for the Progress Authority, spoke about the economic impacts that natural gas development has had on Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The impacts that the Marcellus Shale boom has had on Bradford County has been substantial,” he said. “Jobs are abundant, businesses are booming, farmers are finally able to breathe financially, the list goes on.

“You may not believe it, but we have a jewelry store in town that has boomed,” he continued. “I doubt anyone would expect that kind of store to experience this kind of growth, especially considering the rest of the country’s economy, but that’s just one of the ways to describe how much the natural gas industry has affected this area.

“Once abandoned railyards are seeing new life, Chesapeake has contributed $140 million in road repairs this year alone and much of the natural gas workforce is now made up of local people.”

Ventello also took questions after his speech, one of which asked if the increased use of the railyards would hurt the trucking employees.

“Obviously, truck traffic will be reduced because of the railyards, and that’s good news,” he answered. “But I don’t think the trucking businesses themselves will be hurt all that much. This equipment that the trains are hauling in still need to be trucked to wherever they need to be once they arrive.”

Once the buses arrived at the Wysox Fire Hall for lunch, the attendants were provided with coffee and water and a buffet-style lunch. During the lunch period, campaign director for EID’s Northeast Marcellus Initiative Tom Shepstone spoke.

“Our purpose is the promotion and defending of natural gas development here in the Marcellus Shale,” he said, “and a term that I would like to talk about here was said by a Wall Street Journal writer. That term is ‘ pastural poverty’.

“Many of the people who are against natural gas have either nothing to gain from the process or people who have come here seeking this area’s rural setting, or looking for that ‘pastural poverty’. They came here because it’s quiet and secluded; it’s that country setting. With the gas industry here, they see the change that is coming to this area, and they don’t want that change. What they’re finding here instead is ‘pastural prosperity’. They came to live here, so they don’t see the gas industry from the eyes of people who have to make a living here. This area was struggling, and now opportunity is everywhere.”

Outside the fire hall, Halliburton, a company that specializes in nearly all aspects of natural gas development, had set up a large truck that’s used for fracing.

“This is essentially the command center for the hydraulic fracturing process,” said Perry Harris, operations manager for the Northeast United States. “You can control everything on a fracing site from this truck.”

Inside, sophisticated computers and electronic equipment lined one side of the truck. Samples of data were displayed on computer monitors, which consisted of measurements of pressure and other important technical data that was essential to operating a frac site safely and effectively. Employees of Halliburton were also in the truck and described some of the readings and their duties.

“I can control all of the pumps on a frac site through this computer,” one employee said. “I can increase or decrease pressure, set a limit on pressure in case an issue arises, everything that can be done is done from these computers.”

Once the lunch break ended, the attendants loaded onto the buses yet again to visit a well site operated by Cabot at the Elk Lake school district in Susquehanna County.

During that trip, there was yet another speaker: professional geologist Brian Oram.

“I do not work for a gas company, nor will I ever,” he said. “I work for B. F. Environmental Consultants, but I am not being paid to be here and I am here of my own accord. I am a soil scientist and environmental consultant and I’ve been a professional geologist for roughly 25 years.

“I’m going to focus today on the issues of water wells,” he continued. “We have an enormous lack of baseline data for wells in this area, so it’s extremely hard to tell what causes issues that arise in water wells.

“That’s why I’m urging everyone, and I mean everyone, to have their water tested now so we can establish baseline information and monitor it to see what, if any, changes occur over time, regardless of whether there is  operations in that particular area.

“Many of the wells in this area are faulty and were not properly installed during original construction. Often, you won’t even be able to tell if you’re water has methane in it unless you take a match to it. Many people are completely disconnected from their wells, mentally. They have no idea what goes on underneath the ground where their well is located.

“Fifty percent of wells here do not meet the proper standards.” he added. “The reason for that is because it’s way too easy to become a licensed well driller. I’m a licensed well driller, and the furthest I’ve dug is 20 feet; you don’t want me constructing your well. There are too many unqualified well drillers. We need tighter regulations for this so only the proper people are responsible for the water that people rely on every day.”

Once the buses arrived at the Cabot well site, the attendants were met by Cabot’s director of external affairs George Stark.

“This pad contains two producing wells,” he said. “As you can see, there isn’t much left of this well as it quietly produces natural gas. Additionally, the school has benefited greatly because they’ve received about one million dollars in royalties in a year.”

Stark and two other Cabot representatives answered questions and everyone was then permitted to enter and explore the site and examine the equipment there, which included the well head and containers of brine water that was to be recycled for future operations.

The buses then transported the tour attendants back to the Riverstone Inn, where the tour was concluded.

“Again, I want to thank everyone for coming along on this trip,” Krohn said, “and our sincerest apologies for the unfortunate events that forced us to omit some of the things that we wanted to do. Nevertheless, we hope that the tour was extremely informative and that you leave here with a stronger understanding of the many different aspects of the natural gas industry.” – Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 265-1639; email:

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