Are You Prepared for the Natural Gas Boom?

22 Jan

There’s gold in them thar rocks. More accurately, natural gas produced from Marcellus Shale is as good as gold.

Marcellus Shale

The untapped natural gas reserves in Pennsylvania have triggered a second energy boom. That was the message of the speakers at a symposium organized by Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics, “How Pension Funding Challenges and Energy Development Opportunities Will Affect Our Future.”

Pennsylvania’s first energy boom occurred in 1859 when oil was discovered in Titusville. Today, natural gas is creating opportunities across the Commonwealth. Indeed, Gov. Tom Corbett said energy will drive economic growth for decades.

Philip K. Verleger Jr. of the Peterson Institute of International Economics was the keynote speaker. Verleger observed:

Pennsylvania has at least three important advantages. First, one of the major sources of low-cost natural gas is the Marcellus Shale, which stretches across the state. Second, unique rail networks built over 100 years ago provide a way to bring crude from North Dakota and Colorado shale fields to Pennsylvania refineries, as well as to refineries in southern New Jersey and Delaware. Third, eastern Pennsylvania is not exposed to extreme weather, unlike businesses in other coastal states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. These circumstances give Pennsylvania a unique opportunity.

Verleger added:

One can argue that Pennsylvania’s good fortune came about due more to serendipity than planning. But then, it is always better to be lucky than smart. The job now is to make the most of the luck.

With job creation the top priority for most Pennsylvanians, it’s our “good fortune” that shale production is labor intensive. To fully develop shale production, companies will need to hire engineers, landscape architects, IT professionals, and construction workers and laborers. Those workers will need somewhere to live. The workers will have to eat and have places to unwind.

Rural roads and bridges will have to be upgraded to accommodate heavy equipment, trucks and tankers. There will be increased demand for ancillary business services, including accounting, consulting, legal, security, workforce development, advertising and communications, and public relations.

It is said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. From drilling companies to diner owners, the opportunities are there. Are you prepared to seize the moment?

While natural gas will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, opponents claim hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contaminates drinking water. But emotion and anecdotes are not scientific data. This is not their grandfather’s oil and gas business. Today, technology will mitigate any environmental impacts of natural gas drilling.

Pennsylvania is ground zero for the Marcellus Shale play. The Associated Press reports royalty payments to private landowners could top $1.2 billion for 2012.

But every Pennsylvanian has skin in the game. Consider: Marcellus Shale underlies roughly 1.5 million of the 2.2 million acres of state forest land. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has leased out 700,000 acres of state forest for drilling. DCNR predicts state forests – public lands – may host up to 1,000 well pads and 10,000 wells once drilling is up to full capacity.

The bottom line: Marcellus Shale is a big fracking deal. Are you prepared for the natural gas boom?

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