Natural gas official sees upsurge signs

Natural gas drilling will likely not again see the boom it experienced in the state five or six years ago, but an industry official sees some reason for optimism.

Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer said signs are pointing to a slight upsurge in the industry.

“Demand for natural gas is high now,” he said. “We had some recovery in prices.”

The state, including Lycoming County, rode an economic wave from the industry back in 2010 and 2011.

More lucrative natural gas markets in places such as Ohio and even western Pennsylvania attracted the industry and left northcentral Pennsylvania and places such as Lycoming, Bradford and Tioga counties with a smaller bite of the natural gas industry

“There’s some return now,” he said. “We are back to 33 rigs in the state.”

Spigelmyer conceded that number pales in comparison to the 111 gas rigs that were active in the state six years ago.

But as recently as last fall, the number was down to 13.

Gas prices since last spring, he noted, have increased, which has spurred some recent action.

The industry has been in a kind of holding pattern as pipelines needed to bring the gas to markets are being built.

“As we get more gas to market, that will be an enticement to drill more,” he said.

Spigelmyer noted that the impact fee paid by drillers has meant significant revenues for counties where the industry is located.

From 2011 to 2015, the combined revenues from impact fees for Lycoming County and its municipalities was more than $55 million, according to figures.

Spigelmyer noted that the regulatory process has created problems for gas drilling.

However, he was quick to add that the state Department of Environmental Protection has done an especially good job in the northcentral region working with the industry.

Natural gas is a clean-burning resource that has helped reduce air emissions from years past.

As for embracing renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, they are not the answer right now, he said.

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