Encana and Luzerne County Draft Emergency Response Plan for Potential Marcellus Shale Drilling Disaster

One of the concerns (fears?) expressed by community members when learning there will be a gas well drilled nearby is the question of what happens in the case of a disaster, like a fire or gas leak. Will local first responders be responsible for handling a situation they may not be equipped or trained to handle?

The off-shore Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster in the Gulf makes people concerned about local natural gas drilling. Even though the two forms of energy extraction are vastly different, with completely different levels of risk involved, it makes no difference. It has people spooked. Planning for safety, and how you will respond to a disaster, is a good thing—especially with gas drilling.

Enter Encana, which is about to drill Luzerne County, Pennsylvania’s first Marcellus Shale gas well. And people are nervous. Working closely with the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency, Encana is drafting a disaster emergency response plan.

Wendy Wiedenbeck, public and community relations advisor for EnCana, said local firefighters would not be responsible for containing or fighting a gas well fire or gas release at a well site.

“In the event of an incident, local emergency responders will be asked to provide support to our operations personnel who are specially trained to deal with incidents at oil and gas locations,” Wiedenbeck said.

“Should a serious well-control incident occur, such as release of gas or fire, EnCana will look to local emergency responders to provide support while EnCana calls upon well-control experts to assist in addressing such an incident,” she said.*

So the plan is that if the unthinkable happens, local first responders will provide support, but “experts” will actually handle the emergency. The only problem MDN sees is that the well-control experts Encana will call on have their offices in Texas. The news account does not specify whether or not there is an office closer, or how the experts intend to respond in a timely manner, but presumably that’s outlined in the proposed plan.

Encana and the Luzerne County Emergency Management Agency are completing the draft disaster response plan now, and as soon as it’s ready, it will be released to the public for comment and feedback. Encana and Luzerne County are showing the way for other energy companies and municipalities. Plan now for the unthinkable, and when/if it happens, the severity will hopefully be less than it otherwise would have been because you have a plan.

*Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (May 31) – Response to gas disaster in the works

Penn Virginia Corporation Acquires 10,000 Marcellus Shale Acres in PA for $19.5M

Penn Virginia Corporation (“PVA”) announced it has acquired approximately 10,000 net Marcellus Shale acres primarily in Potter, Somerset and Tioga Counties, Pennsylvania in two transactions for approximately $19.5 million in cash and overriding royalty interests on a portion of the acquired acreage.

The first acquisition was from a private oil and gas firm who was PVA’s joint venture partner. The acquired leases were located primarily in Potter, Somerset and Tioga Counties, including approximately 7,900 net acres with Marcellus Shale rights and approximately 23,000 net acres with deeper rights. In connection with the acquisition, PVA granted the seller a 1.5 percent overriding royalty interest on the acquired acreage. After taking into account the override, PVA’s net revenue interest in the joint venture acreage is approximately 84 percent.

The second acquisition was from another private oil and gas firm of leases primarily in Potter County covering approximately 2,100 net acres, with rights to the Marcellus Shale and all other formations.

A. James Dearlove, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We are pleased to have expanded our Marcellus Shale acreage position from approximately 35,000 net acres to 45,000 net acres, and to have accomplished this expansion at a very attractive cost. We plan to begin testing the acreage in these areas later in 2010. In addition, we continue our leasing efforts and our review of other acquisition opportunities, as we seek to establish a significant presence in this emerging play over the next few years.”

Source: Penn Virginia Corporation Announces Acquisitions in the Marcellus Shale (May 28)

East Resources Sells to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 Billion, Deal Includes All of East’s Marcellus Shale Operations

East Resources, a major drilling company in the Marcellus Shale, especially in Pennsylvania, is selling itself to Royal Dutch Shell for a whopping $4.7 billion. From drilling a single horizontal Marcellus Shale gas well in 2009, East has drilled some 75 horizontal wells in the past 12 months. East did have plans to drill 6,000-7,000 wells in Tioga County, PA over the next “several years” (see this MDN story). No word on the planned drilling for Tioga County and other regions, but MDN assume Shell did not invest in East to not drill. In fact, the pace of drilling may well pick up with Shell’s investment.

From the East Resources press release:

East Resources, Inc., a Pennsylvania-based independent oil and gas producer and one of the most active explorers in the Marcellus Shale, along with its private equity investor Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company, signed a definitive agreement to sell the company’s principal subsidiaries to an affiliate of Royal Dutch Shell plc (“Shell”) for cash consideration of $4.7 billion. The sale includes East’s natural gas and oil exploration and production operations and most of its holdings in related businesses. With the purchase of East Resources, Shell will acquire approximately 650,000 net acres of Marcellus Shale rights in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York, and 1.05 million acres in total.

East Resources, founded in 1983 by Terrence M. Pegula, has been one of the Appalachian Basin’s most active exploration and production companies for more than 25 years. Since its inception, East has grown primarily through its exploration successes, several strategic acquisitions, and most recently the development of the Marcellus Shale.

East Resources employs approximately 300 office and field personnel in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Colorado. Its principal offices are located in Warrendale, PA, Broomfield, CO and Parkersburg, WV. Shell will continue to operate with East’s workforce to ensure continuing success in the growth and development of the reserves it will acquire in the purchase.

The sale of East Resources to Shell is expected to close in two phases. The first phase of the sale will be completed in mid- to late summer. The second phase of the sale, including the sale of the West Virginia business, will close later this year, pending certain regulatory approvals.

“The sale of the company to Shell will ensure that the capital needed to develop East’s significant Marcellus Shale holdings will be available,” says Mr. Pegula, East’s owner and Chief Executive Officer. “Shell’s entry into the region should benefit Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York through significant new capital investment, new jobs and new business opportunities. I am very proud that this transaction has brought Shell into the Appalachian Basin.”

President of Shell Oil Company, Marvin Odum commented, “East Resources’ management has built an excellent organization which we are pleased to have as we enter the northeast US and specifically the Marcellus Shale play.”*

*East Resources Press Release (May 28) – East Resources Inc announces sales agreement with Royal Dutch Shell plc