Marcellus Shale Map Planned
Inside the Outdoors, January 20
, 2012

A three-dimensional map is in the process of being made to locate Marsellus Shale underneath several areas in Westmoreland County including underneath Keystone State Park Lake.

According to Jesse Carl, representative for Rex Energy Corporation, “Seismic mapping is a key-component to responsible natural gas development. Prior to exploratory drilling, operators obtain as much data as possible to make an educated and scientific guess as to where drilling should occur. Seismic mapping allows an operator to determine the thickness and depth of a given formation.” Seismic means “pertaining to earth movements.”

In as much as the Park and communities encompasses a fairly large area, much has to be done before any drilling can be started to pinpoint just where the greater areas of gas may be located.

I asked Carl just who was undertaking the project. He said, “Most of the time, seismic firms are contracted by an oil and natural gas operator to determine the depth and thickness of a target formation. This information is then considered when determining exploratory drill locations.”

Many times, target areas may be found on private property, in this case, belonging to residents of Latrobe, Derry and New Alexandria. These are areas that will be on the map that will be under consideration for this exploration. So, what about the property owners? Do they have any say if it is determined that Marcellus Shale is located on farmlands or near housing developments in these three residential areas, was my next question?

Carl said, “Landowners are key partners in development. To that end, Rex Energy encourages its subcontractors to notify landowners when seismic activities commence. In this particular case, Rex Energy owns the mineral rights beneath Keystone State Park. While we do not have immediate plans to develop this resource, which already has a number of shallow wells, it’s important to understand the potential value of an acreage position.”

And even though seismic mapping may show great potential under the lake area, Carl pointed out, “We have no immediate plans to develop this resource.” That should come as a relief to some whom are a little leery about drilling practices and the possibility of error that would affect the ecosystem of this particular water basin.

Once again, I asked Carl, “If large amounts of gas are found in certain areas, will a drilling company(s) automatically begin operations regardless of where the Marcellus Shale may be located, and when?”

“There are many variables that determine where and when we drill a well,” Carl said. “Additionally, there are aggressive regulations in place at the state level that govern all development.”

Since Westmoreland County is geared to attract sportsmen from out of the area, I asked the Rex Energy’s company representative, “In as much as this county is noted for its recreational draw, particularly hunting and fishing, is your company sensitive to the fact that by installing these drill sights, there may be a great deal of impact on the economy concerning the tourist trade?”

“Responsible shale gas development is conducive to a vibrant multi-use forest or park,” he said. “Much of those who work in the natural gas industry are also avid sportsmen. Working with the sportsmen community, the industry has developed practices to reclaim well sites with native grasses and vegetation.”

So what does Rex Energy gain from this exploration?

Carl concluded, “Rex Energy is committed to the responsible development of the Marsellus Shale. We believe the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas will provide Pennsylvania with a viable and affordable energy source for years to come.”

- Paul J. Volkmann
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