DUBOIS – On Wednesday those attending the Clearfield County Economic Development Authority’s annual meeting heard about Marcellus Shale drilling.
Z. Hunter Hill, chief financial officer of Little Pine Resources was the CCEDC’s featured speaker for the day. He began with an overview of the Marcellus Shale. According to Hill the Marcellus Shale is an organic-rich shale in a blanket formation that takes up about 30,000 acres. It has low permeability and is tough to get gas from. Hill also estimated that Clearfield County has the capacity for about 750-800 gas wells, with a low-estimate life of 20 years.
Hill said the reason for drilling now is that the ability to drill horizontally now exists. He also pointed to the recent domestic energy crisis as a reason.
“We’ll be back to where we were this last summer in a few years,” said Hill.
He said from an oil and gas company’s perspective one of the issues facing them are the lack of pipelines running through the state. Hill said the construction of pipelines would be a major infrastructure project. He added the construction of those pipelines could be a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs, counties and the state.
Hill also noted that oil and gas companies do not have the necessary personnel or equipment like they do elsewhere. He noted that this provides the local workforce with the ability take some of these jobs. He also added that the majority of new jobs to come from drilling will be in the hospitality field, followed by white collar jobs.
Hill said that permitting and water are also issues that oil and gas companies must contend with. He said that usable water resources are few and limited and that the permitting process in Pennsylvania is unique. Hill said there are limited water disposal sites for frac-water.
Hill noted that there is no severance tax in Pennsylvania, but that there will be in the future. Hill said that he is in favor of a severance tax, but that 75 percent should go to the county that produced the fuel, while the other 25 percent should be used to create an oil and gas agency. He said this would take the burden off of other permitting agencies.
He also pointed out the state’s 5-year confidentiality law, something he noted was unique in the oil and gas well drilling field. This keeps the public from seeing the productivity of a well until after five years. He said eliminating this law would also allow for competitive drilling.
He noted that the economic impact of well drilling would include thousands of new jobs in Clearfield County.
“You’ll see higher average salaries,” said Hill. He went on, saying that oil and gas well workers make about $20,000 more than the average Pennsylvanian’s salary.
He indicated that the county would see a population growth as well as a growth in per capita income and eventually higher property values.
Hill said he would like to see investment in a gas storage facility.
Hill also said that people should support their local county energy task force. Clearfield County is currently working on putting one together.
“Pennsylvania’s unique,” said Hill. “You have a blank slate. You can dictate how you want things done.”