By Keith Gushard
Last July, there was just one unconventional natural gas well active in the Utica Shale formation in Crawford County — but this July there are at least five such wells at three different sites in Crawford County, according to permits on file with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The Utica and Marcellus shales are important geologic formations because they hold large reserves of natural gas and oil. Both regions extend through New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and portions of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Crawford County has more of a prevalence of the Utica Shale formation which is at a depth of about 7,000 to 8,000 feet. The Marcellus Shale is at a depth of about 5,000 feet.
Utica and Marcellus shale gas wells are considered unconventional since they are drilled both vertically then horizontally to get into the gas pockets. Natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shales is valuable not only for the natural gas itself, but for conversion of liquids in the rock into other hydrocarbons used in plastics and other industries.
Unconventional natural gas well drilling activity started in the county in June 2012 with issuing of a permit to Range Resources for a site in East Fairfield Township near Cochranton.
The second unconventional Utica Shale well permit was issued in November 2012 to Halcon Resources for a site in North Shenango Township.
The third unconventional well permit, also issued in November 2012, was to SWEPI LP for a site in East Fallowfield Township, south of Atlantic. SWEPI LP is a limited partnership with Shell Energy Holdings, its general partner.
Meanwhile, in March of this year, SWEPI was issued permits for two additional wells to its East Fallowfield site, spiderlegging off its initial East Fallowfield site.
Prior to these wells, natural gas well drilling activity in the Marcellus and Utica shales had been taking place either south or east of Crawford County — in southeast Ohio and southwest Pennsylvania, and in northeast Pennsylvania.
Because of an expected ramp up in natural gas drilling activity within the county in the next few years, Crawford County commissioners formed an oil and gas task force.
They said they did so to assess the influx of additional people and a potential economic boom if natural gas drilling takes off within the county.
The task force has various subcommittees to meet on topics as environment, economic development, public safety, infrastructure and roads, and education and outreach.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.