Shale wells are well-regulated: Pennsylvania has all the tools it needs to extract gas safely


Americans everywhere are familiar with the iconic Pennsylvania image of Drake's Well in Titusville, the first oil well in America. Nowadays, oil and gas are often extracted from "tight" rock formations that do not allow for "gushers" like in the old movies. Such formations, like the Marcellus Shale in Western Pennsylvania, may be filled with gas or oil but only allow them to flow along cracks in the rock known as "fractures."

Hydraulic fracturing - sometimes called "fracking" - involves directly injecting fluid into these tight formations at very high pressures to create man-made fractures. Generally, the more fractures created, the more gas production.

Fracking is a key technology that has made production from the Marcellus Shale economical. Without fracking, the shale gas boom in America might never have started. At U.S. production rates for 2007, estimated reserves could provide enough natural gas to supply the United States for the next 90 years. Separate estimates of shale gas resources extend this supply to
116 years.

Whether fracking poses an environmental concern, Pennsylvania is on top of the issue. An additional layer of bureaucracy could lead to burdensome operational delays and increased production costs, which would, in turn, impede progress in the development of Pennsylvania's natural gas assets and the jobs and revenue that the Marcellus Shale promises to generate. Proponents of federal involvement should show that existing or contemplated state laws governing fracking and water-management are ineffective. Otherwise, Pennsylvania should be left to manage its dramatic return to the national energy stage free of federal oversight.

Excerpted from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. To read the full article, click here.

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