Center for Sustainable Shale Comes Roaring Back (to Life)

roaring backFinally, signs of life from the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a new independent certification organization for Marcellus Shale drillers launched with much fanfare in March of last year. Both drillers and environmentalist organizations, along with non-profits like the mostly anti-drilling Heinz Endowments, cooperated to develop a set of 15 standards drillers should meet to receive the CSSD’s official stamp of approval (see Important: Drillers & Enviros Form New Group, Launch Cert Program for MDN’s mixed feelings about the organization and its standards). Heinz Endowments president Bobby Vagt lost his job for promoting the CSSD (see Bobby Vagt Out as Pres of Heinz Endowments – Fracking Connection?).

Since launching, aside from the Vagt/Heinz flap, all has been quiet with the CSSD. However, the CSSD was busy working behind the scenes. From the beginning, Andrew Place, corporate director of energy and environmental policy for EQT has served as interim director of the CSSD. News reports are now coming fast and furious. First, environmentalist lawyer Susan LeGros from Philadelphia has been named the director of the CSSD. She’ll be making a move to Pittsburgh where CSSD HQ is located. Second, Bureau Veritas (BV) has been selected as the company to audit/evaluate companies that want to spend the $30-$100K required to become certified. After they evaluate, a 3-member panel will decide on whether they get the stamp of approval. Two of those three people are Christy Todd Whitman, former governor of NJ and former EPA chief, and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. Third, it appears to MDN that no one else has joined the CSSD beyond the initial handful of signups (Shell, EQT, Chevron, CONSOL Energy), and that no one has sought certification–although that may change now that the cert process is up and running…
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Midstream Melee: Dominion in the Hunt to Buy NiSource?

The rumor mill is buzzing with speculation that NiSource, a $10.6 billion utility and midstream company with major operations in the Marcellus and Utica Shale, is the object of desire for Dominion, a powerhouse utility and midstream company worth $38 billion. Everyone’s denying everything, but “inside sources” assure the Associated Press that Dominion is in “advanced stages” of raising the $10B+ they need to make a purchase, and that’s causing NiSource’s stock to skyrocket.

Here’s the rumor, speculation and (very few) facts as we know them:
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PA Resident Snaps 8,000 Pictures of Cabot Well Construction

Photojournal of a PA NatGas WellMDN editor Jim Willis received an excited phone call from Susquehanna County, PA resident Janice Gavern after being pointed in our direction by Cabot Oil & Gas. Janice, who runs a goat farm with her daughter near Montrose, PA (and a cancer survivor) started a project a few years back to document the drilling of a shale well on her friend’s property. As Janice says, after she visited the site, just to “keep an eye on things” and snapped her first picture, she was hooked. And the rest, including some 8,000 pictures taken with Janice’s little digital camera, is history. At least that’s what Janice hopes.

Janice’s aim in doing a photo documentary of the drilling process is to preserve an important bit of Susquehanna County history, for future generations. Janice has selected 650 of the 8,000 pictures and compiled them into an e-book on Amazon–the first e-book of a series she’s planning. The first batch cover site preparation and building the well pad–up to the point when the drill arrives. She’s done a fabulous job, and we’re happy to help her make it known to the world. In fact, although the e-book normally retails for $9.99, you can order it FREE today and then again on Feb. 1. We recommend you head on over and download it right now. Here’s a bit more of Janice’s story as told by the Scranton Times-Tribune
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School in Belmont County, OH Gets $7,250/Acre from Gulfport

Some 10 miles “as the crow flies” from Gulfport Energy’s super well, the Irons 1-4H (pumping out 30 million cubic feet of natural gas per day) sits the small community of Shadyside and the Shadyside Local School District. The school has just leased 20 acres to Gulfport for drilling under (not on), which may seem like not much. However, when you’re getting $7,250 per acre as a signing bonus, and 20% royalties on anything produced, the school’s 20 acres is way more than “not much.”

Shadyside School’s lease with Gulfport will net them an initial check for $145,000–just for the signing bonus. Gulfport is signing up the neighbors around Shadyside too. Will the school’s property be drilled under this year? Maybe! Gulfport is spending $630 million to drill 95 new Utica wells–many of them in Belmont County, OH where Shadyside is located and where Gulfport has had huge success already…
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Chevron’s Marcellus Drilling Picks Up Steam in WV, PA

With 700,000 net acres in the Marcellus Shale and 600,000 net acres in the Utica Shale, Chevron is one of the largest acreage holders in the northeast. Although Chevron has been actively drilling in Pennsylvania, their drilling in Ohio and West Virginia, up to now, has been all but non-existent. Is that about to change, at least in WV? According to an article published today out of Wheeling, WV, Chevron’s drilling activity in WV is due to pick up in 2014…
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Allegheny County Health Dept to Monitor Air Near PIT Airport

Here’s a good idea that everyone can embrace: Measure air quality both before and after drilling near a local drill site. In this case, it’s not just any drill site–it’s the 9,000 acres surrounding the Pittsburgh Airport where CONSOL Energy is now ramping up to drill 47 Marcellus Shale wells on 6 well pads and install 17 miles of gathering pipelines (see CONSOL Energy Reveals Drilling Plan for Pittsburgh Airport). The Allegheny County Health Department announced they will conduct an air quality study at the airport before and after drilling.

What will they find? (It’s always fun to speculate!) We suspect…not much. Oh, there may be a temporary increase in some undesirable pollutants in the air from truck traffic (if they use diesel, increasingly natgas trucks are being used). However, since CONSOL will use electric motors to do all of the drilling and fracking at the airport property, most of the air pollution problems that come from drilling will be nonexistent (see CONSOL to Use Electric Motors for Drilling at Pittsburgh Airport). MDN will keep an eye on this interesting story. Here’s the article that talks about the Health Department’s plan to monitor air quality near the airport:
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Deloitte’s View: 2014 Spending Shifts from Upstream to Midstream

From time to time it’s helpful to zoom out to the “40,000-foot view” of the oil and gas industry, because understanding the bigger picture helps us understand the smaller picture that MDN concentrates on–the Marcellus and Utica Shale. One of the better analysts of the bigger picture (in our humble opinion) is consulting powerhouse Deloitte. John England, Deloitte’s U.S. Oil & Gas leader, recently posted a 40,000-foot view of what’s happening in the oil and gas sector in the U.S.–and where he believes it’s headed in 2014.

England, quoting the Oil & Gas Journal, says E&P (exploration and production) spending in the U.S. was $354.8 billion in 2013. However, spending on the midstream–the pipelines and processing plants that get all of that production to market–was only $46.4 billion in 2013 (although that’s up 360% from the $12.8 billion spent on midstream in 2012). England says as we head into 2014, look for investments to continue shifting from the upstream sector (E&P) to the midstream sector–to infrastructure like pipelines and processing plants, refinery operations, and petrochemical facilities. MDN concurs. Just reference our massive list of 111 midstream/infrastructure projects underway or planned in the Marcellus/Utica (see MDN’s 2013 Databook Vol 2 Finds Staggering $40B in NE Midstream Projects). Here’s England’s take on where we’ve been, and where we’re headed in 2014…
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Warning: Marcellus Welders in PA Targets of Copper/Tool Theft

Welders in the Marcellus Shale should be on the lookout–especially in western PA. There’s been a recent rash of thefts of welder’s tools and supplies–particularly copper welding cable. The thieves are bold–really bold. Sometimes a welding truck is targeted for theft while the guys are inside a restaurant having lunch!

Here’s the sad, and maddening, story:
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