April 15, 2011
-- There is now no doubt that the discovery of shale gas in the US has revolutionised the country's energy industry, enabling it to reduce its dependence on foreign imports and secure its domestic supply for the foreseeable future. The Marcellus Shale target is one of the fastest growing shale gas producing regions in the country. In 2007, just under 100 drilling permits were granted in the region. In the first eight months of 2010 this figure increased to 2,108.
Michael Arthur, co-director of Penn State's Marcellus Center and professor of geosciences, said: "We expect that the uptick in Marcellus well drilling activity will continue, given the high production rates being seen in the wells and the relatively low cost to develop this gas resource. "Even with the low natural gas commodity pricing, drilling in the Marcellus can still be profitable for efficient companies," he added.
However, for shale gas to become accepted by members of the public and legislature in states where drilling is taking place, there are environmental questions that need to be answered, particularly in relation to water quality. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is one of the key techniques which has allowed for the release of the natural gas stored within the shale plays, and as interest in the Marcellus Shale play increases, so will the use of this technique. It involves injecting three million to five million gallons of water, combined with salt and other additives, at high pressures into the rock formation to release the gas. Wells are drilled either vertically or horizontally, and can extend several thousand metres from the wellhead on the surface.
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