New Castle News

October 31, 2013

Our Opinion: There’s no doubt Lawrence County is part of energy boom

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The reality of the impact of shale gas in Lawrence County continues to take shape.

This week, the New Castle News reported on progress regarding three separate gas lines now in the works. Two of these are designed to send gas to a major new facility under construction just over the Ohio line near New Middletown.

That facility will separate dry gas from wet gas. Dry gas is the type used to heat homes and buildings, while wet gas can be put to a variety of uses, similar to crude oil.

All of this is happening because of the Marcellus — and to a growing degree Utica — shale layers. These are deep underground rock formations that extend throughout much of Pennsylvania and surrounding states and hold vast amounts of natural gas and even petroleum.

Because of improved technology and rising energy costs, shale gas has become marketable in recent years, both locally and in other parts of the United States. Shale gas has become an energy boom in America, and Lawrence County is part of the story.

Yet like any energy extraction effort, acquiring shale gas has its controversial aspects. Accessing the fuel requires not only deep drilling, but also a process known as fracking. This pumps fluids into the well under pressure.

The fluid causes the brittle shale rock to fracture, releasing the gas it holds.

The process results in some environmental concerns, and these should not be minimized. But when we compare the fracking process to the risks associated with mountaintop removal in coal mining operations, or the potential consequences of deep-sea oil drilling, shale gas drilling has some obvious advantages.

Plus, gas is a much cleaner fuel, and has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being placed into the atmosphere. We envision a growing demand for shale gas in America and elsewhere, as a result of costs and cleanliness.

However, there will be impacts. And they will vary. Obviously, the construction of gas lines across the county will have an effect on people and property. So too do shale gas wells.

But it would appear that for some residents, the financial advantages of shale gas operations far outweigh any concerns. Landowners across Lawrence County have received thousands of dollars per acre from oil and gas leases, while others have gained from actual drilling.

The specifics of what is being found in the way of gas under Lawrence County are not clear, because drillers play these cards close to the vest. But additional activity in the county suggests drillers are finding enough to keep them interested.

Still, the era of shale gas drilling in Lawrence County is in its infancy. It will be interesting to watch it unfold.