New Castle News

Marcellus Shale

February 8, 2012

Shale drilling not yet booming here

NEW CASTLE — Marcellus and Utica shale drilling in Lawrence County is not booming — yet.

But progress is being met with mixed emotions from landowners who either have scrambled to sign top-dollar leases with drilling companies or who are being cautious about the effects hydraulic fracking could have on their land and the environment.

Shell Appalachia, a division of Shell Oil Co., plans to drill four wells in Lawrence County this year, according to Kimberly Windon, a company spokeswoman.

Shell is hosting a series of town hall-style meetings in Lawrence and Butler counties to inform people of its leasing and drilling activities and provide information about the company. The sessions are:

•Monday — 6 to 8 p.m., Lincoln High School auditorium, Ellwood City.

•Feb. 15 — 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Slippery Rock University student union.

•Feb. 21 — 6 to 8 p.m., North Beaver Township fire hall.

Shell also is setting up a hotline for questions or concerns. The number will be announced at the meetings.

According to Windon, the company has had two exploratory wells drilled in Lawrence County, both last year on the Harry J. Patterson farm off Mount Air Road in Little Beaver Township.

She wouldn’t say what resources the drilling companies are finding, noting that is confidential.

The company plans to drill six more wells in Lawrence and Butler counties this year, including another one on the Patterson farm that will begin next month. Three additional sites will be in North Beaver, Scott and Perry townships. The other two are in Butler County.

According to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection e-tracking, these well sites are either approved or permits are pending:

•The property of R. Henry in Slippery Rock Township, permit pending by Shell.

•The property of G. Twentier, Portersville, permit pending by Shell.

•Harry Patterson, Little Beaver Township, permit issued Jan. 17 to Shell.

•W. Mayberry, Scott Township, permit pending by Shell.

•Hufnagel, a well pad in Perry Township, permit pending, by REX Energy Operating Corp. of State College.

Statistics from the county register and recorder’s office show that as of Feb. 1, at least 3,777 memorandums, leases and oil and gas leases have been recorded for Lawrence County properties since 2004. Of those, 1,877 were in 2011.

Ken Daugherty of New Castle was hired by Hilcorp Energy Co., an oil and gas exploration firm, to help secure leases in Lawrence and Mercer counties.

Hilcorp, a privately owned Texas-based firm, has leased about 65,000 acres in both counties so far, Daugherty said. His work in Lawrence County is mostly in Pulaski, North Beaver and Mahoning townships.

The company anticipates drilling between two and 10 wells locally this year, he said.

Hilcorp, Shell and REX are exploration companies that lease properties for drilling, he explained, then they contract with drilling operators for the work.

Hilcorp will contract with local companies for building the cement drill pads and for road maintenance, he added.

Daugherty has been meeting with local officials, engineers and environmental representatives to present information about the company’s plans, he said.

“We’re in the process of applying for permits,” Daugherty said. “We’re just really getting started.”

(Email: dmorris@ncnewsonline.com)

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