New Castle News

December 28, 2012

Top 10 Stories, Number 4: Marcellus Shale marks its presence in county

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — As shale drilling continues in Lawrence County, plans are materializing for a gas-powered electric plant in North Beaver Township.

The announcement of LS Power to build a $750-million plant in North Beaver Township was welcome news Lawrence County officials this year, especially in light of an earlier announcement that the coal-fired electric generating plant in West Pittsburg is due to close.

LS plans to fuel its plant with natural gas drawn from a nearby Tennessee gas pipeline and will use shale gas being drilled on local properties. Its goal is to begin operations in 2016 or 2017.

Shale drilling got under way in the county this year with operations in New Beaver Borough and Pulaski and North Beaver townships.

Recently, Mitcheltree Brothers unveiled plans to the Lawrence County Planning Commission for a water filling station in Pulaski with a fracking containment site as progress continues with shale gas drilling.

Hilcorp Energy and Shell Appalachia have drilled at least three sites for producing wells.

In Pulaksi Township, Hillcorp has been drilling on the Laird Whiting property on Garner Road. It also is drilling off North Valley View Road on the Rick Kinkela property, and pipeline is being laid to connect those wells, according to information from Pulaski Township.

While driving on Route I-376 in Neshannock Township, one can sometimes look to the west and see flames shooting upward in the distance as the wells are flared.

Justin Furnace, a Hilcorp spokesman, offered email comments about Hilcorp’s work locally.

“With regard to our operations in the area, we are still in the infancy stage of our growth and development. Right now our operations are largely focused in and around Pulaski Township.”

Future infrastructure development and drilling will be determined by results of current drilling activity, he wrote. The company is working to obtain permits for additional drilling next year, but has not yet pinpointed where more wells will be drilled.

“However, without question, we plan to continue to grow our presence in the form of hiring additional contractors and employees in the area.”

In eastern Lawrence county, Joe Minnitte, case manager for Shell Exploration and Production Co., has said the company plans more drilling next year.

Shell ended the year drilling its last two wells — one site in Slippery Rock Township in Butler County, and the Thomas Kephart well in North Beaver Township. Both are part of Shell’s exploration phase, Minnitte said.

Shell has built four well pads in the county. In addition to Kephart, there is the Patterson well in Little Beaver Township, the Twentier property in Perry Township and the Mayberry property in Scott Township.

And as shale progress continues, so does concern for safety and drinking water wells among citizens and environmentalists.

Groups continue to monitor the issues on Facebook and via local protests and meetings. They have formed a group called “The Fracking Truth Alliance of Lawrence and Mercer Counties” and have an informational and comment site on Facebook.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)