Chief Drills First Marcellus Well in Blair County

Chief Oil & Gas, LLC, an independent operator based in Dallas, Texas, held a community meeting at the Blue Knob Conference Center in Blair County, Pennsylvania, on Feb 3, 2010, to announce the first Marcellus Shale gas well in that county. Chief has been operating in the Barnett Shale in Northern Texas since 1997, and in the Pennsylvania Marcellus since 2007. 

Chief regulatory manager Jason de Wolfe was the main speaker. He explained that the purpose of the meeting was for Chief employees to introduce themselves to their Blair County neighbors, educate them about the company’s drilling and operations process, answer their questions, and try to address their concerns. 

Well Overview
The well, Ritchey Unit #1H, is located in Juniata Township and was drilled in just under 20 days. (Apparently the company offered a last-minute tour of the drill site earlier in the day, but I hadn’t heard about that, so I missed it.) 

Using a new, first of-its-kind rig designed specifically for Marcellus Shale, the Patterson #255 has 1600-horsepower for faster drilling and longer laterals. At 150 ft tall, the rig is also 3 times the height of a standard derrick, which allows longer pipe joints. The new rig design also means it can be hauled on smaller, lighter truck loads to more easily navigate smaller township roads and local terrain. 

Chief reports that it has a 3-year contract on the rig and plans to continue using it for its 2010 drilling program, which has an estimated budget of $325-350 million. Currently the company is working on 45 wells throughout its Marcellus lease holdings. 

Thoughtful Questions, Good Discussion
I attended the meeting because I wanted to see for myself how such things actually go. TV covereage of these types of events often feature 10-second clips of angry people yelling. While de Wolfe calmly but candidly explained that they were prepared for that possibility, there was no yelling at this 2-hour meeting, just concerned, thoughtful, and persistent questions. 

Questions ranged from “how does this work?” in reference to leasing and drilling operations, to concerns about the environment, specifically water issues. 

Several of those persistent questions came from Tim Clingerman, Director of Bob’s Creek Stream Guardians, an environmental group whose mission is “To protect Bob’s Creek and tributaries so that future generations can enjoy recreational and other uses in a high quality watershed.” 

The Ritchey Unit is in Bob’s Creek watershed, and the group has concerns about the environmental impact of drilling and fraccing operations.

During the presentation, de Wolfe explained that Chief  had pledged $10,000 towards the cost of water-monitoring equipment for Bob’s Creek.  Among Clingerman’s persistent questions, “Where’s the money?” Chief representatives gave Clingerman a check later that evening. 

On hand to field environmental questions was Chief’s senior regulatory advisor Rich Adams. Adams is a native Pennsylvanian and formerly of the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (DEP), Watershed Management. I thought he did a good job answering questions and providing appropriately detailed explanations. 

Take Away: Safe Operations are in Everyone’s Best Interest
With an area history of environmental damaged caused by mine drainage, you can’t blame area residents for their concern. Part way through the evening, Chief acknowledged that  history, but the response I heard was a somewhat simple, “this is different.”   A stronger message might have been: We are a different industry, a different company, and these are different times. 

In the late 19th and early 20th century, environmental pollution and even worker deaths were considered acceptable collateral in the name of industrialization and progress. That, of course, is no longer the case. Companies recognize their roles as corporate citizens, neighbors, and stewards of the environment. 

Let me know what you think. Take a minute and post a comment now. 

For more information about the oil and gas industry’s environmental performance, come to the SPE Pittsburgh meeting on March 2, featuring Distinguished Lecturer, Michael Godec. Read More (scroll down to March Section Meeting).

One Response to “Chief Drills First Marcellus Well in Blair County”

  1. petrocomputing Says:

    One of the technologies that could be used to assuage any public concerns about fracturing operations affecting any water supply is microseismic. It shows on a computer screen in pretty colors exactly where the fractures are happening in relation to any aquifer or surface waters during a fracking operation. This would make an excellent town hall meeting movie night — be sure to have lots of popcorn and soft drinks!
    Love, Jeanne

    Jeanne M. Perdue

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