McKean County is key site for next gas boom

KANE - McKean County already is reaping the economic benefits of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.But an even larger windfall may lie ahead for the county when drillers tap the deeper Utica Shale for gas.Speaking Friday at a Kane Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum at the Kane Manor, Bob Veilleux said McKean County is “well-situated” for the anticipated Utica Shale drilling.Veilleux is the economic and community development educator for the Penn State Extension that serves McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter counties.According to published reports, the Utica Shale may contain over 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Utica Shale lies between 3,000 and 7,000 feet beneath the Marcellus Shale.The cost of drilling this deep is at least partly offset by set-up expenses. Drilling into the Utica Shale can take place from the sites that already have been developed for Marcellus Shale wells.Veilleux said McKean County is in “a much better location for Utica Shale development” than it is for Marcellus Shale drilling.While the Utica Shale boom is yet to come, Veilleux said the drilling of gas wells in the Marcellus Shale is increasing and “showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.” According to data he displayed on a white screen for the audience of 20, there are 410 workers needed for the development of each Marcellus Shale gas well. These workers represent 150 different occupations, Veilleux said.“These are significant numbers,” he added.Veilleux said there also are many “indirect” and “induced” jobs linked with the drilling of Marcellus Shale wells. He said “indirect” jobs include those needed at quarries to provide stone for the access roads and well sites. He said “induced” jobs are those at the restaurants, motels and other businesses that serve the drillers and truck drivers.According to Veilleux, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last year issued 65 permits for Marcellus Shale wells. Records show that at least 50 of these permitted wells have yet to be drilled.Veilleux said a survey of workers linked with Marcellus Shale wells shows that the boom is “definitely bringing wealth into the area.”He said “not one single person” who responded to the worker survey “earned less than $50,000” a year.