WELLSBORO - Shell Appalachia held a recent open house for the public that attracted more than 200 people, according to Deb Sawyer, onshore business communications adviser.
"There were 250 community people, plus 63 from Shell," she said.
During the open house, which featured a full spread of appetizers and beverages, tours of the newly renovated former Penn College north campus building were conducted by staffers, including James Moore, pipeline supervisor for Shell Exploration and Production.
The site was purchased by Shell last year.
Moore stressed how important safety is to the company and discussed how it shows its concern by rewarding employees who help step up and intervene in what could become "hazardous situations."
"We have what we call the 'Heroes' wall, where we recognize them for identifying and stopping a hazardous situation," Moore said.
Another board posts a few pictures of well sites where "incidents" have occurred. It's called an LFI board, or "Learning From Incident."
"Those incidents are posted and emailed to all company personnel," he said.
Moore, who oversees construction of local pipeline construction, said during the years Shell has been drilling in the region, the company has proven itself in the safety department as it works to dispel the claims of those who may be against gas drilling.
"We've been up here for awhile and people are seeing what the truth is," he said.
According to Moore, there have been hundreds of thousands of fracks in the United States and at least 100,000 in last 30 to 40 years in Pennsylvania.
"If you drill a hole and frack it, and you have contamination to the ground, it results in a loss of productivity. They will put in all the controls they possibly can to keep from losing production and profit. So we actually do go the extra mile. Safety and quality is No. 1 with production," he said.
Moore added that there may be some methane migration because it exists in the ground naturally.
"Methane gas is an organic compound. It's not unusual to have some methane migration if you have a (natural gas) well drilled on your property," he said.
But, there is "no benefit to drill a well for something bad to happen," he added.
"So the argument against it doesn't really hold up. People are now seeing the gas industry for what it is really worth. There will be a few bad things that happen, like a truck wreck or spill, but they are few and far between. People are understanding the residual benefits of having some industry here," Moore said.
As for the slowdown in gas well drilling activity over the last year, Moore said the business follows the market's ups and downs.
"When you build infrastructure, once it's built you eventually reach where you need to be. So, in the first 1 to 2 years, there were a huge influx of construction personnel," he said. "If gas ever jumps back up to $9 per MCF (1,000 cubic feet), you will see it start up again.
The price now is about $3.50 per MCF, Moore said.
He explained how natural gas is disbursed once it is harvested from the ground.
"Our gathering system goes into a large pipeline system, and that goes into a metering system to Tennessee Natural Gas, who processes it for residential application and sells it to the customer," he said, noting that the general public often doesn't understand "exactly where their gas comes from."
"All of the resources brought to them are done through large infrastructure projects. Even when they go to fill up their cars with gas, it comes from a barrel of oil that must be turned into gasoline for their cars," he said.
Using compressed natural gas to power vehicles is one way to branch out and increase production, but it isn't easy, or cheap, to convert a fleet of vehicles, or to change the way vehicles are manufactured from gasoline engines to compressed natural gas, or CNG, he said.
"Not only does the infrastructure have to change but the way vehicles are manufactured (must change). So you could put in a CNG station, but I don't know if that would be a catalyst for a person to go buy a vehicle powered by CNG," he said.