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Federal agency predicts lots more shale production

PITTSBURGH – In a Marcellus shale region already flush with fracking, pipelining and processing, federal officials believe the formation will yield 147 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from now until 2040.

That compares to a total of only 8 trillion cubic feet produced in the region from 1990-2014, according to a report assembled by John Staub, team leader for the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Office of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Analysis.

Staub’s discussion opened the 2015 Developing Unconventional Gas conference Wednesday in Pittsburgh, as hundreds of industry leaders gathered in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the seventh annual event. To put the numbers in context, 1 trillion cubic feet is enough natural gas to run 24.3 million homes for an entire year.

“It you flew into Pittsburgh airport, you landed on our lease,” Consol Vice President of Operations Craig Neal told DUG conference attendees.

The firm is in the process of drilling numerous wells on the Pittsburgh International Airport property.

Neal said Consol has 441,000 acres leased in the Marcellus field, emphasizing that 91 percent of this is “held by production.” This is a phrase industry officials use to describe land upon which they have at least one functional well, which usually allows them to keep the property under contract without renegotiating a lease with the mineral owner.

Although the Marcellus field is generally associated with Pennsylvania and West Virginia rather than Ohio, both the Utica and Marcellus rock formations are in all three states. Neal said Consol is fracking the ‘Swiss Six’ pad in an area of Monroe County west of Powhatan Point. The horizontal portions of these wells are stretching about 2 miles underground, he said.

“We’re really excited about this Monroe County area,” he said.

Jim Scheel is senior vice president for Northern Gathering & Processing at Williams Energy, which operates the three large processing plants in Marshall County. Although his firm already has the Moundsville fractionator, the Fort Beeler plant and Oak Grove facility, all of which are connected by a vast pipeline network, he said much remains to be done.

“Just a few years ago, there were no assets in this area. It’s an amazing story,” he said. “There is a lot more infrastructure that needs to get in the ground.

National columnist Charles Krauthammer served as the luncheon speaker Wednesday. The room filled with oil and natural gas industry leaders broke into applause when Krauthammer said, “Ladies and gentleman – only 18 months to go,” regarding President Barack Obama’s term.

“Obama is not your ordinary American liberal,” Krauthammer said.

Krauthammer said most U.S. politicians “play between the 40-yard-lines,” but said, “Obama has carried the ball beyond the 40-yard-line.”

Regarding the 2016 race, in which former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is heavily favored to secure the Democratic Party nomination, Krauthammer said an “attractive” Republican can defeat her.

“I do believe the Republicans have a very strong field. It’s the strongest field since 1980,” he said.

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