Lancaster Online : State geologist discusses Marcellus Shale in talk here

Lancaster Online : State geologist discusses Marcellus Shale in talk here.

State geologist discusses Marcellus Shale in talk here
Posted:  03/10/2011 11:17 PM
Caption: “In this file photo, a natural gas drill sits atop a ridge near Knoxville, Pa.”Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania will not be denied, predicts the man responsible for natural gas leases in state forests and state parks. 

“The reason Pennsylvania is hot, hot, hot is because we potentially have the largest gas field on planet Earth in Pennsylvania, situated in the middle of the largest integrated gas market on planet Earth. Transportation costs are virtually nil. You couldn’t ask for any better situation,” said Teddy Borawski, chief oil and gas geologist for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“This thing is going to go on for 50 years,” Borawski said, adding that Marcellus natural gas from Pennsylvania alone could supply all the country’s needs for 20 to 25 years.

Controversy swirls around aspects of the just-taking-hold natural gas boom in Pennsylvania. But Borawski predicts the northern and western portions of the state will become pocked with gas wells over the next five decades.

Specifically, he said, the number of wells to be drilled on both public and private land will increase from about 6,400 wells today to 120,000 wells, perhaps even 180,000.

He said he thinks that can be done safely, with constant vigilance.

And the manager of subsurface programs for the state Bureau of Forestry made some other bold predictions, such as Williamsport rivaling Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as an economic hub in the state.

Also, he said, the extent of the Marcellus Shale reservoir of gas, and other untapped formations here and in other states, will move the United States to a natural gas-driven economy.

“Because it’s there and it’s going to be cheap and plentiful,” he said.

Borawski gave an hour-plus rundown on Marcellus Shale on Thursday in Neffsville before about 50 attentive members of the Pennsylvania Dutch Chapter of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters Society.

Among the audience were at least two representatives of out-of-state energy companies currently operating Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania.

Borawski’s former boss, former DCNR secretary John Quigley, said last August that the 2.2-million-acre state forestlands couldn’t withstand any more gas pads without environmental damage.

Asked about that, Borawski replied, “I have no comment I can make.”

But referring to a de facto hold on additional gas leases on public land that former Gov. Ed Rendell made in the last few months of his administration, Borawski said Rendell “wanted to push companies as hard as he could” in seeking a severance tax on gas drilling.

Gov. Tom Corbett has removed those roadblocks, is opposed to a severance tax, and wants to get gas extraction running full-tilt.

Borawski did say he hoped Corbett doesn’t seek “wholesale leasing” of gas on state forests. There is room for expansion and to generate revenue for state coffers, he said. “We can do that, but let us do that on our own terms. But we’re subject to what the governor tells us to do.”

Borawski, who has been involved with oil drilling on the Gulf Coast, was asked about the recent documentary “Gasland,” an Academy Award-nominated documentary made partially in Pennsylvania that portrays drilling as harmful to the environment and residents.

“Joseph Goebbels would have been proud,” Borawski replied. “He would have given him the Nazi Award. That, in my opinion, was a beautiful piece of propaganda.”

Borawski also was asked about a recent New York Times series of stories that painted a picture of lax environmental laws and enforcement in Pennsylvania regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

“It confused the situation and was very poorly written technically,” Borawski said.

But he said the story raised legitimate issues about water concerns.

Water needed for gas drilling will not cause water shortages anywhere and currently uses much less than the state’s golf courses, he said.

But, he added, “Where we have a problem is where you are taking it from and when you are taking it. And flowback being treated.”

He said state regulators will have to remain vigilant in protecting the state’s water resources because if unguarded there always will be companies looking to take shortcuts.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is doing a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracking and will use Bradford and Susquehanna counties as study areas.


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