Not every property that’s leased gets drilled on. But “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say, is that not every Marcellus Shale well that is drilled actually produces. If a company decides to drill, landowners are excited, with good reason. But best to temper that excitement with the statistic that a certain percentage (MDN has heard as high as 10%) of the wells drilled never end up producing. That was the case recently in Luzerne County, PA where Encana has abandoned two wells—the “Salansky” and “Buda” wells.
Will Encana Oil & Gas’ gamble in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania pay off? We’ll know soon. Encana is due to start drilling two exploratory wells in Luzerne County this week. The drilling process itself will last 65-75 days.
So why is it a gamble for Encana to drill for gas in Luzerne County? Nobody knows for sure if the Marcellus Shale gas deposits are commercially viable that far south.
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
To address concerns of area residents, Encana is paying for a baseline water study to be performed for any household up to one mile away from a proposed natural gas well Encana will start drilling in Luzerne County, PA this year:
EnCana is attempting to establish a baseline for water quality and quantity conditions by requesting property owners participate in a water sampling assessment, which will be collected by Rettew Associates, a third-party environmental-testing firm based in Lancaster.
Letters were mailed April 8 to landowners located within a mile radius of the well covering Lake and Lehman townships, and Harveys Lake borough.*
Encana spoke to area residents at a recent meeting in the Lehman Township fire hall to describe the testing procedure and their desire to, “Take every safeguard to not impact your water.”
*Wikes-Barre Times-Leader (Apr 21) – Residents worry about gas drillers contaminating water
Encana has gotten a green light from the supervisors in Lehman Township (Luzerne County, PA) to begin drilling this summer. The board approved an ordinance allowing the drilling to begin. According to Township Zoning Board Solicitor Jack Haley, the supervisors had little choice:
According to Haley, all authority to halt drilling operations in any municipality in Pennsylvania lies in the hands of state agencies, not local governments. The township’s rules are “superseded” by the state Oil and Gas Act, he said.
The state Supreme Court already reviewed two similar cases, he added, and decided the only authority Lehman Township has applies to what roads EnCana can use.*
As for the motion/ordinance and what it says about the roads:
[Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Ray] Iwanowski outlined six conditions to the motion: that EnCana put up $13,540 to maintain Firehouse Road through the total time it is used; EnCana put up $32,192 to maintain Peaceful Valley Road similarly; all traffic related to the drilling traverse on Firehouse Road toward state Route 118; no traffic will go on Old Route 115 in the township (near the school); EnCana provide adequate insurance coverage for the township, and that a legally binding agreement be signed by EnCana holding it to its commitment.*
*Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (Apr 14) – Lehman Township says yes to gas drilling
An article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reveals this interesting information about Encana’s activity in Pennsylvania:
Encana Oil and Gas Inc. – has leased 25,000 acres of property in Luzerne County. The land is mainly on the north side of Route 118 in Fairmount, Ross, Lake and Lehman townships.
Encana so far has obtained permits for drilling one well in Lake Township and another in Fairmount Township and is seeking a permit for one in Lehman Township, said company spokesman Doug Hock. Hydrogeological studies are now under way, and officials hope to begin constructing wells by May.
“For every well drilled, that creates about 120 jobs, either directly or indirectly… The bulk of these jobs as we begin operations are done by subcontractors,” Hock said.*
*Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (Mar 21) – Law, engineering firms will be the first for jobs
According to an article in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, drilling company Encana Energy Corp (from Canada) will begin drilling a Marcellus gas well in Lake Township, PA (Luzerne County) starting in May or June. At a recent town meeting, some residents expressed concerns about trucking activity on local roadways. More meetings are planned to answer local residents’ concerns.
For more information, see: Times Leader (Mar 11) – Lake Twp. antsy about gas drilling