Gas driller offers update at Tioga County meeting

MANSFIELD – The Tioga County Development Corp. May meeting was held at Keane Group headquarters in Richmond Township Friday; and Matt Feil, Human Resources manager, gave a brief presentation about the company, which opened its Mansfield headquarters in 2013.

Keane Group also has offices in Houston, Denver, Pittsburgh, North Dakota and Alberta, Canada.

“We have added 200 jobs in Texas, 144 from January through March. We have 513 now and in a year will have over 1,000. Over the last year we have more than doubled our size,” he said.

Keane’s payroll in the local area is about $30 million annually, Feil said.

“Our Mansfield headquarters represents about a $10 million investment in the area,” he added.

Feil said the main driller in Tioga County, Shell Appalachia, has pulled back on its drilling in the Marcellus Shale, but other companies likely will step in as they move out.

“Tioga County is not a barometer for what is happening in the Marcellus Shale,” he said, “Shell is drilling three wells with us, and they were going to drill 30 this year.”

Keane, started by the Keane family in Bradford drilling for oil in 1973, offers fracking, wireline technology and drilling services.

The Marcellus Shale wells drilled by Keane are “typically 1,000 feet deep, he said “then another company does horizontal drilling.”

Once the well is drilled, and about a mile of casing is installed, then the wireline is run down through the bore with a charge gun and charges are set off at various intervals to frack the surrounding shale to get at the gas, Feil explained.

“The wire is used to pull the charge gun back out of the well, and as it is coming out software sets off the charges to perfectly perforate the casing,” he said.

In other business, directors heard that TCDC likely will have to change its bylaws following a potential breach pointed out by the organization’s legal counsel.

“Our bylaws allow us to do projects in Tioga County, we did one in Lycoming County, PMF Industries,” said Director and CEO Bob Blair.

“They make CNG canisters for natural gas, they have an office in Wellsboro and we were asked by the state to do the loan,” Blair said.

Samantha Wilcox, attorney with Owlett and Lewis, provides legal services to TCDC.

She recommended the board “go with a Tioga County focus but adding an additional business purpose to perform Industrial Development Corps activities for Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loans in surrounding counties.”

“And restrict the work to just PIDA operations if there is no IDC in those surrounding counties,” she added.

Blair said an amendment of the bylaws and articles of incorporation will be voted on by the executive directors at the July 11 meeting and brought to the full membership during the annual meeting July 28.

“We need to correct that so we don’t lose any of our (non-profit) status,” Blair added.

Wilcox said the directors “need to decide what you are willing to commit to in the future.”

“If you decide to do all PIDA loans in all surrounding counties, 501-c-3 discrimination issues could start popping up,” she said. “But if you state the business must have some tie or benefit to Tioga County, that helps protect you,” she added.

PIDA loans can only be used for land and buildings.

TCDC charges $2,000 per business to process PIDA applications.

In other business, directors:

Heard that a small business seminar will be held at the TCDC building May 19 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Heard that the 21st Annual Meeting will be held Monday, July 28, at 5 p.m. at Mansfield University.

Approved the resignation of long time director Scott Bastian who has been on the board for over 10 years from January 2004 to May 2014.

Heard Blair that demolition on all but four buildings at the former Westan Tannery in Westfield could begin as early as this summer if grant funding comes through in a timely manner, otherwise, it will begin in the fall or early winter. Plans are for the property to be developed into a business park.

Heard that this year’s Marcellus Shale Expo will be at Mansfield University June 18. The previous four years it has been held at Alparon Park, Troy.