What is Marcellus Shale?
The Marcellus Shale is a deep layer of rock that lies 5,000 to 9,000 feet under the ground. It runs from the southern tier of New York through the western portion of Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, and West Virginia. While this area has produced natural gas for years, the area is now becoming of interest due to the high energy prices and new drilling technologies that could recover more than 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
As heavily organic sediments were laid down approximately 380 million years ago, the black shale of the Marcellus formed. As the organic material decayed, the components of natural gas formed and are now tightly trapped in the dense shale.
What Do I Need to Know About Drilling?
Gas wells are placed in areas where the gas companies have obtained rights to explore for natural gas. Wells are spaced according to mineral laws and regulations. Geologists and geophysicists work together to come up with data that shows the formations of rock under the ground. If data suggests a possibility of sufficient gas access, a well will be drilled. Drilling can be done vertically or horizontally based upon the shale. A steel casing is cemented in place to stabilize the surface of the well bore and protect groundwater resources. Horizontal drilling allows companies to extract more gas in a cost effective manner.
Landowners – How Are They Involved?
Landowners have to give written permission for exploration on their land. All work completed should be clearly proposed in the lease. This includes compensation for any damages. Natural gas that is trapped underground has little or no value to landowners. It only becomes valuable when companies with the proper equipment and ability begin to extract it from the ground. Again, the owner of the land is compensated for its value through the payment of a royalty. Gas companies must have sufficient acreage under lease for a well to be drilled. Each unit is 100 to 500 acres. Landowners in the unit receive a prorated share of the royalty based on the acreage they have within the unit.
Contractors are sent out to private homes and farms to secure the mineral exploration. This practice helps prevent another company from tying up the mineral exploration rights and making exploration more complicated. Not all contractors are part of a gas company, some are independent brokers and others are speculators. Each contractor has a different motivation for securing a lease. Depending on seismic data, different offers will be given to different landowners.
The landowner should know that the lease will be the basis of negotiation and the written term of the contract are written in stone. Again, if you are a landowner, it is highly recommended to consults an attorney to discuss before making any legally binding decisions.