PARKERSBURG - About 20 members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley learned about the statewide and local economic impact of marcellus and utica shale production during a Lunch and Learn event on Friday.
The lunch informational meeting took place in the second floor meeting room of the West Virginia Central Credit Union and included discussion from Dave Drennon, marketing and transportation manager with HG Energy of Vienna and representative with Just Beneath the Surface alliance, and Karen Facemyer, president of the Polymer Alliance Zone.
"There are a lot of good things going on in the industry and not a lot of information, so this is really an educational effort," Drennon said.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Dave Drennon, marketing and transportation manager with HG Energy out of Vienna and representative with Just Beneath the Surface alliance, speaks to members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley Friday.
Just Beneath the Surface is an alliance of groups supported by the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia, a statewide, nonprofit trade association. The purpose of Just Beneath the Surface is to provide the public with facts, debunk false information and offer an in-depth look into the natural gas industry, officials said.
So far, 53 of West Virginia's 55 counties have natural gas production operations with the industry directly providing more than 30,000 jobs.
"The jobs is one of the most important things," Drennon said. "With growth, we could see as many as 44,000 people directly employed in this industry."
Through horizontal drilling, the industry uses marcellus and utica shale to produce natural gas and other energy resources.
"While drilling of marcellus shale has not been reported in Wood County, we are seeing the benefits," said chamber president and CEO Jill Parsons.
Facemyer said there is an estimated 17,000 new high-paying jobs in the chemical industry with 395,000 additional jobs expected in West Virginia with the growth of the natural gas industry.
"West Virginia is prospering right now and we expect to see that continue," she said.
Because chemical and plastics plants use byproducts of the marcellus and utica shale drilling, many secondary, value-added plants in the area, such as DuPont, Sabic Innovative Plastics and Kraton, could see growth, she said.
"Ethane and other byproducts in marcellus and utica shale will allow for a chemical industry boom for years to come," Facemyer said.
Along with these changes comes environmental rules, Drennon and Facemyer said.
"Marcellus shale is a huge resource directly under our feet," Drennon said. "To adequately develop that we have rules."
These rules, provided by the state, include working with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to ensure the process of drilling and casing wells is safe for people and the groundwater.
"There are at least three strings of casing to protect fresh groundwater from the drilling," Drennon said. He explained that fresh groundwater is no deeper than 300 feet below the surface while the marcellus shale is between 7,000 and 8,000 feet down.
To protect water supplies, a mixture of cement is pumped around each of the three levels of piping at each drill site, along with everyday chemicals included in cosmetics, food and other household products to ensure antibacterial and safety qualities, officials said.
"The environmental concerns have been taken control of above and beyond regulations," Facemyer said. "We have heard a number of concerns about the water supply but there has been no evidence or record of contamination."
"This is our neighborhood as well and the industry wants to take care of it as best it can," Drennon said.