Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The natural gas land rush is on in NY and PA

A natural gas prospectors land rush is roaring through sections of southern New York and northern Pennsylvania.

Oil and gas companies--small, large and international--are racing to buy options from local property owners allowing the companies to sink drilling rigs into an enormous deposit of natural gas trapped in rock below the surface.

That deposit--the Marcellus Shale formation--stretches across southern New York and norther Pennsylvania.

Three recent developments highlight just how big the push is to extract energy riches from the Marcellus:

1. Hess Corporation, a multinational energy company working with Newfield Exploration, is expected to begin drilling later this year on 87,000 acres in Wayne and Susquehanna counties.

2. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Pennsylvania expects to review applications for 5,200 new permits to drill in the Marcellus Shale this year -- nearly three times the number of permits issue in all of 2009.

3. The state of Pennsylvania has agreed to open up 32,000 acres of state forests to natural gas drilling companies.

The Press and Sun Bulletin, a daily Gannett newspaper in Binghamton, NY has produced a nifty interactive map showing the locations of six of the deals between gas companies and property owners in one section of the Marcellus region surrounding Binghamton.

Clicking on the red pins that mark the locations opens up information balloons detailing the names of the companies, number of landowners involved, number of acres leased, lease values, terms and royalties.

These six deals alone total more than $500 million and more than 156,000 acres.

As big as the current operations are, they may only be the beginning. Environmental concerns have slowed the pace of lease deals in New York State. Once the state has adopted regulations governing drilling operations (including the controversial hydrofracking method), the pace is likely to quicken.

We'll be following the story and would be most interested in hearing from you along the way.

The Opinion Box below is your opportunity. If you don't see one, click on the tiny 'comments' link and one should appear.

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Commission set to begin real-time water quality monitoring
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New York proposes Marcellus Shale drilling rules

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