The Marcellus Shale is a natural gas trend which stretches over four states and 104,000 miles making it the largest source of natural gas in the United States. Sprawled over Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York, The Marcellus Shale was initially thought to not have a significant amount of natural gas potential, however now it is thought to be have largest amount of recoverable natural gas in the country. The area has been estimated to house upwards of 600 billion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas, which is enough to supply the United States for two years and as of November 2016, drillers harvest an incredible 16 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day.
The oil and gas industries have been well aware that there was gas in the Marcellus for some time, however it was originally thought to only occur in pockets, and useable flows couldn’t be sustained. When the gas flows that were found died down quickly, drillers soon began to ignore them when they came up, with everyone assuming there simply wasn’t enough to make a profitable well. Between 1976 and 1992 the U.S. Department of Energy conducted the Eastern Gas Shales Project, which drilled, cored, and studied the shale formations in the area. It was at this point discovered that there was actually a huge amount of gas in the Marcellus, but there wasn’t a viable way to extract the gas, especially with the plummeting gas prices of the 1980s. The advent of horizontal drilling as well as hydraulic fracturing has made all the difference, with the amount of wells being built every year growing at an exponential rate. The most active of these drillers include companies likes Chesepeake Appalachia, Range Resources, Shell, Talisman Energy, and Anadarko E&P.
From an economic standpoint, the Marcellus Shale has been a boom for the areas which it lies under. In 2012, the fracking the formation was estimated to create a quarter million jobs and millions in revenue. With drilling and land permits reaching a premium, the state of Pennsylvania alone has generated over $3.5 billion in land acquisitions alone. This, combined with all the outer sources of revenue from the drilling contributes $34.7 billion to the state economy, about 5.8% of the states total economic activity and 4.7% of the state’s total employment. Not only that, but the low cost of domestically produced gas has had the great side effect of bringing production and industrial work back to the U.S. from overseas. This return of previously outsourced work is expected to create over 500,000 jobs all across the country. The Marcellus Shale shows no signs of slowing down, and with the process of harvesting the gas becoming more and more efficient, both the drilling companies and the communities they benefit can only look forward to better returns and more economic growth.