The topic at Tuesday's Wetzel County Commission meeting was of the oil and natural gas industry, and its benefits to economic and environmental development.
First, Josh Jefferson, project coordinator for Marshall and Wetzel counties for Regional Economic Development (RED), met with the commission to have them sign a resolution of their continued partnership with RED through the annual Local Economic Development (LED) grant program. This grant contract is signed between Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel County Commissions and RED, who provides matching grant funds. The purpose of the LED grant program is to enhance the capacity of local economic development organizations to undertake economic development activities.
Jefferson noted there's a lot of opportunity right now, as well as challenges RED tries to address such as finding developmental property. "We're trying to position ourselves to capture as many jobs and tax dollars as we can," Jefferson said as he noted partnerships are growing both inside and outside of the gas industry. Jefferson went on to say he appreciated the partnership he has with county commissions and intends to "take care of the companies that are here as well as get new ones here." He concluded, "We just want to see jobs for our area."
Kenny Mason, owner of Drilling Appalachian Corporation (DAC), appeared before the Wetzel County Commission Tuesday to represent Just Beneath the Surface Alliance and give an informational presentation on Marcellus Shale and horizontal drilling.
With that, the commission agreed to sign the resolution presented, as they've done in past years.
Lastly, Kenny Mason of the Just Beneath the Surface Alliance appeared to give an informational presentation on Marcellus Shale and horizontal drilling. The presentation shed light on many benefits of these operations presently underway in the county and explained the drilling process itself and the materials involved.
The purpose of the alliance is to provide the public with facts, debunk false information, and offer an in-depth look into the natural gas industry. Along these efforts, the alliance provided several facts about Marcellus Shale and the oil and natural gas industry to the commission. Among the information provided, it was shared that the industry supports well over 30,000 jobs in West Virginia, and over 7,000 new jobs can be created in the state through Marcellus Shale development. Also, the state severance taxes could rise to $118 million by 2016, or an annual growth rate of 17.6 percent, the alliance anticipates. Currently, 53 of the state's 55 counties have natural gas operations.
They also believe development could mean $24 billion in total economic value to the region, which would positively impact all sectors of the economy including the service, construction, manufacturing, health care, and education industries. Furthermore, from 2004-2007, the oil and natural gas industry was responsible for creating nearly two million additional domestic jobs.
Looking in broader terms, the group also says the United States is estimated to have enough natural gas to meet 100 percent of current domestic demand for at least 90 years. Notably, the top five producing countries in the world are Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States, Iran, and China for oil; and the United States, Russia, Canada, Algeria, and Iran for gas.
It was also shared that since 2000, the industry has invested $1.7 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives, while reducing the industry's environmental footprint. Between 2000-2008, the industry also invested more than $58 billion in new low and zero carbon emissions technologies.
Mason, owner of Drilling Appalachian Corporation, discussed various benefits of the horizontal drilling process including the fact that a smaller number of horizontal well sites are needed to develop a reservoir and that multiple wells can be drilled from a single site, lending to minimal land disturbance. "One road and one pipeline serve multiple wells on one site," he underlined. In comparison, two to three times as much land is disturbed in surface coal mining, and 50 to 100 percent of the land is disturbed in subsurface coal mining.
Mason also brought up the ethane cracker plant potential for the area. "A cracker would take advantage of the region's massive natural gas reserves," he said.
Mason also emphasized that as companies case off the water and coal through steel and concrete layers, water contamination through the horizontal drilling process is eliminated. He added there are generally three strings of casing, all cemented, between Marcellus fracturing jobs and fresh water zones. "The well cannot be fractured if the cement fails," Mason went on to explain. "And fresh water cannot be impacted if the cement holds."
Regarding hydraulic fracturing, Mason noted the technology has been used since 1948 and is used to stimulate the flow of energy from new and existing oil and gas wells. He concluded that there has never been a documented instance of water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing.
At the end of the presentation, Mason spoke on behalf of the alliance, saying, "We think the development is worth it." The commission agreed and thanked Mason for his and the organization's diligent work in presenting the facts of the industry to the public.
The Just Beneath the Surface Alliance is supported by the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia (IOGA) and the West Virginia Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute. The initiative was started to provide the public with factual information about the natural gas industry in West Virginia. According to the alliance, the natural gas industry has always been a vital part of the state's economic history and has always supported local jobs, contributing to local economies, and working to protect and improve both the business and natural environments of the state.
For more information visit www.JustBeneathTheSurfaceWV.com.