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October 27, 2012

Shale Boom, Part 1: Activity escalating in Lawrence County

NEW CASTLE — Impact fee and occupancy tax dollars from Marcellus Shale are rolling into Lawrence County, its municipalities and tourism.

Meanwhile, the trucks are rolling in, too.

A cavalcade of tanker trucks was parked along the northbound Pulaski exit ramp of Interstate 376 last week for a few days, their destination a Marcellus/Utica shale drilling site off Garner Road.

Trucks laden with pipe also are making their way into the township as gas transmission line digging gets under way.

All are signs of progress for Lawrence County, which — since last year — has seen drilling rigs go up and come down and move on to other sites, exploring the richness of natural gas, and possibly oil, in the area.

WAVE OF THE FUTURE

Thousands of hopeful property owners have signed contracts for mineral rights leasing and now, people in the western part of the county are signing leases to allow pipelines to cross their land.

Seismic measuring companies are busy in Little Beaver Township, New Beaver Borough and elsewhere taking measurements in preparation for digging and hydraulic drilling.

In Pulaski, excavating started last week on a farm off Route 551 for the laying of gas and water pipeline by Hilcorp Energy Co. of Houston, which has the drilling operation on Garner Road.

The company’s plans are to drill five wells on property owned by Laird and Joyce Whiting, and, until recently, a rig there could be seen for miles around.

Hilcorp secured five conditional use approvals from the township for each well, and has received conditional use approval to build a central facility for processing gas at the Whiting site.

GAS PROCESSING

According to paperwork Hilcorp submitted to the township, the 350-by-450-foot central facility is used to process fluids including natural gas, oil and water for it to meet sales specifications.

Total well fluids enter the facility, where gas is separated from the liquids. Gas then is sent to a compressor where it is compressed and passed through a filter separator to remove any free liquid. The gas then flows through a sales meter and into the Tennessee Gas Pipeline. Oil, kept in storage tanks, is then hauled to a sales point by a truck and then to a disposal facility, according to the company’s description.

Two temporary water lines are being placed between a water intake location on the Shenango River and the well pad.

Greenhorne and O’Mara, consulting engineers for Hilcorp, notified the township in June of its intent to apply for permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and said the project scope includes improving an access road to the Lafarge Corp. Pulaski plant, and a former rail bed. The improvements will include vegetation clearing and widening both sides of the access roads about five feet.

In addition, a total fluids pipeline and gas lift line was to be installed between the well pad and central facility, all on the Whiting property.

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