ICYMI — Reuters, PA Newspapers: “Hydraulic fracturing operations, natural gas boom brings riches to a rural town”
“A huge opportunity”; “Has transformed the lives of some local farmers”; “It’s just the tip of the iceberg”; “Increased job opportunities”; “This is all good news for the area”; “The economic impact will be wonderful”
Small, rural PA towns “getting rich from the rush to develop the Marcellus Shale”
Natural gas boom brings riches to a rural town
April 5, 2010
At a windswept rail yard at Wellsboro in northern Pennsylvania, dozens of railcars wait to load thousands of tons of sand onto trucks that will take the cargo to natural gas rigs across the state.
The freight railroad, which runs 35 miles north to Corning, New York, had its busiest year in more than two decades in 2009, fueled by demand from a booming natural gas industry, which uses sand in hydraulic fracturing operations.
“This is a huge opportunity for us to operate at these levels,” said Bill Myles, manager of the railroad’s operations. The company has just spent $1.5 million on four powerful new locomotives, is laying new track and has hired new workers.
Like many rural towns, Wellsboro is getting rich from the rush to develop the Marcellus Shale, a formation stretching from New York to West Virginia that contains enough natural gas to satisfy U.S. demand for 20 years or more, experts say.
It is expected to become the most productive of America’s shale gas fields.
The boom has also transformed the lives of some local farmers who, after struggling financially for years, now find themselves with six- or seven-figure checks from the gas companies in return for leasing their land for drilling.
“Some of them have had tears in their eyes, thinking they may have to give up the farm,” said Gooch. “The gas checks have allowed them to stay on their land.”
And with the expected growth in the area’s gas industry, Bob Chesko said: “It’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some say it’s going to be a 20-year project.”
Business has picked up at gas stations, auto repair shops, restaurants, realtors, and even the local movie theater, said Coolidge, adding, “I have seen so many businesses that it has touched in a positive way.”
Gas boom sparking rail revival
Sunbury (PA) Daily Item
April 2, 2010
Those who can operate trains, repair locomotives, and maintain railroad tracks may find increased job opportunities in the Valley soon. Lycoming Valley Railroad Co. is seeing an upsurge in demand for transportation of supplies needed by contractors serving Marcellus Shale drillers.
The processing of drilling through the shale to extract natural gas, known as hydrofracking, requires lots of special sand and lots of pipe and it makes lots of wastewater. The sand and the pipe have to be brought in, sometimes from as far as Saskatchewan, and the water has to be carted away. Trucks do some of the work, but trains are seeing an increase in business as well.
Lycoming Valley Railroad Co.’s first quarter this year showed a 40 percent increase over the same time period last year, said chairman and CEO Richard Robey. The firm, based at 356 Priestley Ave. in Northumberland, hired two more workers and is looking for two more now. That’s just to start.
Wildcat is a Colorado-based company, Hunter said, but it has plans to hire from the local job market.
“We managed to get through the recession without any layoffs,” Robey said. “Today we have 16 new customers involved in supplying the Marcellus Shale gas industry.”
That industry started up in earnest in Pennsylvania in 2008, Hunter said. “It’s impact on local areas is dramatic,” he said. “I live in Williamsport and the changes in Williamsport are dramatic.”
Rebirth of the railroad?
Sayre (PA) Morning Times
April 3, 2010
Now, for the first time after decades of decline, activity on the Lehigh Railway is growing again. New locomotives are being purchased, and employees are being hired to keep up with new demand created by the natural gas industry.
According to Jim Raffa, vice president of sales for the Lehigh Valley Railway, the railroad is once again assuming a position of prominence in the region’s economy, transporting many of the things needed to tap into the of the area’s newest economic hope — the sand, pipes, and other bulk materials needed to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
“This is a phenomenon up in this area, it really is,” Raffa said. “There’s a lot of railroads that are seeing economic downturns, whereas for us, it’s been growth.”
According to Raffa, the increased business from the Marcellus Shale industry has already led the railway to hire new employees, with more hires expected.
“We have also recently purchased another locomotive to handle the increased business,” he added, “(and) we expect to purchase two more within the next year.”
“To have a functioning railroad that’s doing well is only going to produce better-paying, higher-paying types of jobs.”
“This is all good news for the area,” he said. “It’s definitely coming back”
“I think the economic impact will be wonderful for the Valley, especially at a time when everybody knows that the economy’s bad,” said Sayre Mayor Denny Thomas.