Maryland Governor Makes Surprise Visit to Allegany County, Shows Interest in Marcellus Drilling Using Alternative Method

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley surprised Allegany County commissioners Sunday evening when he showed up at a meeting to discuss Marcellus Shale drilling in Maryland.

Commissioners were pleasantly surprised when O’Malley indicated interest in the possibility of developing Marcellus shale in Garrett and Allegany counties through the use of a carbon dioxide gas process, rather than the more commonly used hydraulic fracturing.

The commissioners said they conveyed what they believed to be the importance of Marcellus shale development and their willingness to look at various options to develop natural gas while protecting the environment. O’Malley seemed particularly interested in using carbon dioxide gas for pushing the gas out of the shale. The gas method is used daily in Canada, said Commissioner Bill Valentine.

O’Malley has been very cautious about drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale, asking for further study before large scale drilling commences. O’Malley’s staff last week denied seeking a moratorium on gas exploration.

Valentine said a local company captures carbon dioxide gas from one of its operations and conceivably, that gas could be used to assist the so-called fracking process to push natural gas out from Marcellus shale. It’s believed using carbon dioxide would be more environmentally friendly than the so-called hydrofracking process, which involves using water and chemicals to open cracks in the shale sufficient to allow the gas to escape into pipes and be brought to the surface. Because it opens the seams more gently than hydrofracking, the industry refers to the use of carbon dioxide gas in the process as “massaging,” Valentine said.*

Is the good Gov. on to something here—using CO2 instead of water and sand? Or is he chasing butterflies and unicorns? You be the judge.

*Cumberland Times-News (Mar 21, 2011) – Governor ‘pulled no punches’ in meeting with commissioners