The panelists discussed the start of fracking, current practices, and future improvement and public understanding of the process. Here is a summary of what they said.
In Pennsylvania, past jobs consisted of coal and steel. Now the gas industry is creating what could be well paying life long jobs.
It was not too long ago that the US was building ports to import natural gas because the thought was that we were running out. Shale gas drilling got started over 50 years ago by drilling vertical wells. Over time, production decreased but horizontal drilling got shale extraction going again.
Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling first started with Barnett shale in the Fort Worth basin. Now those techniques are being applied to Marcellus shale. In Fort Worth, it was the use of horizontal drilling that got the Barnett really going. The industry then began to look for the next play.
In October of 2001, the first Marcellus vertical well was drilled, and it started the Marcellus play that we are seeing now. From 2001 to 2006, more vertical wells were drilled to delineate the scope of the basin and land leases were acquired. The first 3 horizontal wells were drilled in 2006. They were not successful, but through some trial and error, they figured out how to do the drilling correctly, relying on experience from the Barnett shale.
During the early years, the content of the fracking fluid was not an issue. However, once drilling in Pennsylvania got close to New York, interest became focused on what was being included within the fracking fluid. Citizens were asking questions so the executives got together and it came down to doing the right thing - disclose it, because there is nothing harmful in it. In 2010, the industry began to disclose the content of the fracking fluids and created the website known as fracfocus.org. Disclosure is on a well- by- well basis. There are still some issues that need to be addressed regarding the proprietary percentages of certain chemicals being used in the fracking fluid. Generally, the content of fracking fluid is no longer a significant issue since the entire industry now provides disclosure, not just a few companies.
The shale gas revolution is an enormous evolutional change in energy. Eight years ago, the thought was that the US would have to import natural gas. Natural gas prices were very high. Now, the US can export gas and prices have dropped significantly which benefits consumers and manufacturers. Everything has happened so quickly that if all of this was known in advance, the Marcellus play would have been promoted better. The industry is catching up now in making sure that the public understands the significance of these developments, both in terms of energy development and jobs.
The Marcellus play is bigger than expected. The Marcellus is the largest gas production field in the US and might be the second largest in the world. We have just scratched the surface. There are almost 2 million acres in play. Relatively speaking, it is a low cost play that will benefit generations of people and many companies. Natural gas will move the US toward more energy independence. All of this is having a positive impact on the economy and there is a way for everyone to win for generations.
We have the chance to become energy self-reliant. However, we need to diversify our transportation fuels. Too many of our transportation systems depend on foreign oil. Natural gas can help reduce this dependence, but we need to start changing our infrastructure to allow for this evolution to take place. There is an enormous opportunity to make a transition from oil to natural gas in the transportation sector, especially with respect to business fleet vehicles.
The industry will need some time to get all of the information out to the public. It is also important for the industry to be as transparent as possible in order to alleviate some of the environmental concerns that are out there. We also need our youth coming out of college to participate in the process and learn. We have great leaders in our universities today.
We need a society where common sense is more important than politics and where community is valued. Our leaders need to recognize this going forward. We must value jobs that allow people to work hard and advance.
CO2 emissions are the lowest they have been in twenty years due to the impact of the shale gas. We need to keep moving forward.