PARKERSBURG - About 100 people gathered in the Parkersburg City Building Tuesday for an informational session on the impact of drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a vast rock formation rich in natural gas.
Speakers from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and West Virginia University spoke about the economic impacts, permit process and safety concerns of drilling for natural gas in the shale, which stretches for 95,000 square miles in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and New York.
Professor of geology Tim Carr from WVU gave a detailed explanation of the process of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," used to release natural gas from the shale.
About 100 people gathered in the Parkersburg City Building Tuesday for a meeting on the impact of na
Carr said with adequate regulations and inspectors, the shale will benefit West Virginia economically.
"This process has benefits, but it will change things around here. We do need to manage it," said Carr. "This is an industrial activity in an agricultural area. There are risks."
With only 17 inspectors monitoring thousands of oil and gas wells in the state, Carr said some changes should be made to regulate the industry.
Photo by Natalee Seely
Tim Carr, West Virginia University professor of geology, explained the process of hydraulic fracturing at an informational meeting Tuesday at the Parkersburg City Building.
Carr addressed concerns on the large amounts of water used in fracturing between three million and six million gallons per well.
"That is a lot of water, but it's all relative," he said. "The average golf course uses up to 300,000 gallons of water every day. A power plant uses a quarter of a million gallons of water in a day."
As a result of drilling in the Marcellus Shale, employment will rise, the state will reap financial benefits from a severance tax placed on natural gas, and consumers will see their costs decrease, Carr said.
"This is a big resource; a world-class resource," he said.
David Belcher, an inspector with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, touched on the responsibilities of inspectors and the well-drilling permit applications.
The 17 inspectors with the Oil and Gas Office of the DEP are responsible for monitoring more than 70,000 oil and gas wells in the state.
Belcher described the process of horizontal fracturing as unconventional and new to the state.
"It is something new to us, and it has brought on challenges," he said.
Belcher said, among other thing, the DEP is responsible for monitoring wells, investigating accidents and spills and enforcing the requirements of drilling companies, such as water testing within 1,000 feet of a well site.