Appalachian Basin

Progress Alliance Learns of Growth to Come

On Tuesday in Steubenville, the Progress Alliance led by Executive Director Ed Looman, hosted a luncheon at Froehlich’s Classic Corner for local officials and business leaders to discuss shale development in Jefferson County.  The featured speaker was Tom Murphy, Extension Educator and Co-Director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.  Mr. Murphy gave an in-depth overview of what has happened in Pennsylvania and what to expect in Jefferson County in regards to shale development which helped our local elected and business leaders understand howw to best capitalize on the safe and responsible development of the Utica Shale.

Mr. Murphy explained that shale exploration and production is now officially a worldwide phenomenon with exploration occurring in Europe, South America, South Africa, Asia and Australia.  The exciting part about shale being international is that it is only possible thanks to American ingenuity and technology.

Despite the presence of shale throughout the globe, every play is different and Mr. Murphy believes that development of shale in Ohio will be similiar to the scale that existed in Pennsylvania.  In Pennsylvania the play started off relatively slowly with only 60 wells being developed in 2007.  Today, there are over a thousand active wells throughout the state with over 4,000 having been developed since exploration began there.  Much of that development has occured in Northeast PA because of the productiveness of the Marcellus ther and its close proximity to market.  However, the southwestern portion of the state has seen a significant uptick in activity recently as producers seek to develop wet gas, or gas with liquid hydrocarbons attached, due to the high price of oil and liquid fuels.   This is where much of the similiarity lies with Ohio’s shale as it is too is estimated to have an abundance of wet gas.  In his remarks, Mr. Murphy thought Ohio might take things one step further and experience a more rapid and expansive development of our resources.

When Mr. Murphy declared that Ohio’s development could proceed at a faster pace and larger scope ears perked up and for good reason.  The production of abundant and clean burning natural gas is reviving our nation’s manufacturing sector, including the steel industry in Ohio, and is providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of Amercians.  One need look no further than North Dakota which has full employment with an unemployment rate of 3.5%,  nearly 18,000 job openings and a $1 billion budget surplus.

What will this new development mean to local communities?  Mr. Murphy noted that Williamsport , PAis now the 7th fastest growing city in the United States.  Not much sparking this other than natural gas.  Here at home, Steubenville, Ohio was just featured on ABC World News for the 300 jobs already brought to the community, not to mention the 10,000 more expected to be on the way.

To take full advantage of this opportunity, Mr. Murphy described how local businesses can make preparations by understanding the needs of natural gas companies who run on a 24 hour schedule and expect prompt service and response for needs that may arise at any time.  One thing is for sure, there will plenty of opportunities for everyone here in Ohio.  Mr. Murphy noted that it takes over 420 individuals in over 150 occupations to develop a natural gas well through its lifecylce.

As Mr. Murphy’s presentation winded down, he asked the audience for questions.  A gentleman in the crowd asked him if he thought hydraulic fracturing was safe and if it would impact water supplies.  Mr. Murphy’s reply was simple.  There is a lot of fear being perpetuated but that fear is not backed by experience, science or facts.  Mr. Murphy noted that Penn State  recently conducted one of the most comprehensive drinking water impact studies in the nation.    The study confirmed statements made by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and regulators in over 15 states that natural gas production does not, and has not,  impacted groundwater.

The crowd of roughly a hundred people were treated to a great presentation thanks to Ed Looman, Executive Director of Progress Alliance.  Thanks to the opportunity our shale resources provide and local leaders like Mr. Looman, Ohio, and more specifically Jefferson County, is ready to prosper from the safe and responsible development of our shale resources.

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