WHEELING - The potential benefits of natural gas drilling outweigh the concerns of many community leaders who turned out Tuesday to learn more about the process.
The Regional Economic Development Partnership hosted a presentation by Chesapeake Energy at River City Restaurant and Banquet Facility in Wheeling that drew representatives of local city and county governments, educational institutions, economic development groups, vendors and more. Stacey Brodak, director of corporate development for Chesapeake, presented animated explanations of the drilling process as well as a slide show. She also answered questions from the audience.
Several officials who were present said they not only learned more about drilling during the event, but added it helped allay their concerns about the environment, potential accidents, employment for local residents and more.
Wheeling Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey said though Marcellus Shale drilling is in its infancy locally, he believes the opportunities the industry will provide for the region are overwhelming.
Fahey noted it will be up to state and local legislators to provide the necessary regulations and oversight to protect the environment, people and infrastructure of the area. He also stressed the importance of communication and cooperation between government and industry leaders.
"As long as we can work as partners, this will provide tremendous opportunities, not just for us, but for generations to come," he said.
Ohio County Commissioner Tim McCormick agreed.
"I know it's an emotional issue," he said regarding conservation of the environment in the face of industrial development. "But Chesapeake is doing everything they can to maintain and stabilize the environment, and I just hope this is very productive for everyone."
McCormick added that he is concerned about the future work force for the industry, but noted Chesapeake cannot control who is hired by the vendors with which it does business.
Preparing area residents for the job opportunities natural gas drilling will provide was discussed during Brodak's presentation.
She pointed out the company previously met with local high school and college officials regarding the need for training.
Brodak added that the groups are working together to find a balance between what the schools can provide and what training the company must provide all its employees after they are hired.
Dave Knuth, executive director of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, believes the public needs to hear more positive stories about the natural gas industry. He pointed to Chesapeake's high rate of drilling successful wells - 98 percent, according to Brodak - as well as job opportunities for local residents and the chance to earn money from the gas that lies beneath a landowner's property. He also cited that hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" has been conducted for many years, saying the process has evolved and improved during that time.
"We all have to make sacrifices in different areas ... ," Knuth said. "There are going to be accidents, hopefully all minor, but that is a part of life. ...
"This is going to help this area flourish and become a better place to live," he added. "People will want to move here, not out of the area."
Marshall County Commissioner Donald Mason also believes natural gas drilling will help create a positive future for the Ohio Valley.
"I believe we will see short-term problems and issues for long-term benefits," he said.
Mason said Chesapeake has been very proactive in dealing with residents, businesses and government in his county.
He pointed to a task force formed under the leadership of Tom Hart, emergency management director for Marshall County, saying it has helped the community get to know the company and the issues that surround drilling and fracking.
Mason said he is concerned about ensuring the industry creates employment opportunities for local resident.
"We need to make sure people are trained and educated to fill the positions for the industry," he noted.
Water and energy are interdependent. Energy resources are needed for producing, processing, distributing and using water resources. Conversely, water is an essential component of deep shale gas development. It is used for drilling, where a mixture of clay and water is used to carry rock cuttings to the surface, as well as to cool and lubricate the drillbit. Water is also used in hydraulic fracturing, where a mixture of water and sand is injected into the deep shale at high pressure to create small cracks in the rock and allow gas to freely flow to the surface.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is a proven technological advancement which allows natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations. This discovery has the potential to not only dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign fuel imports, but also to significantly reduce our national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and accelerate our transition to a carbon-light environment. Simply put, deep shale gas formation development is critical to America's energy needs and economic renewal.
Experts have known for years that natural gas deposits existed in deep shale formations, but until recently the vast quantities of natural gas in these formations were not thought to be recoverable. Today, through the use of hydraulic fracturing, combined with sophisticated horizontal drilling, extraordinary amounts of deep shale natural gas from across the United States are being safely produced.
Hydraulic fracturing has been used by the oil and gas industry since the 1940s and has become a key element of natural gas development worldwide. In fact, this process is used in nearly all natural gas wells drilled in the U.S. today. Properly conducted modern hydraulic fracturing is a safe, sophisticated, highly engineered and controlled procedure.