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LNG facility to be constructed in Bradford County

NORTH TOWANDA TOWNSHIP, PA – REV LNG Inc. based in Ulysses is planning to construct a facility in Bradford County that will cool locally produced natural gas to its liquid form, so that it can be used as a fuel in the long-range trucking industry.

Robinson firm reaping Shale gas rewards

ROBINSON, PA (AP) — The number of employees at Civil & Environmental Consultants (CEC) in Robinson has jumped from about 425 to more than 650 over the past five years, thanks to the shale boom. According to spokeswoman Emily Chiodo, drilling in the Marcellus shale started

Transco Pipeline owner in $50 billion merger

(AP) — Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams Companies Inc., which owns the Transco interstate natural gas pipeline that runs through Luzerne County, announced that its limited partnership, Williams Partners L.P., will merge with Oklahoma City-based Access Midstream Partners, L.P. in an approximately $50 billion deal. “This is

Region’s young professionals honored

For several years, The Pennsylvania and Marcellus Business Central has been collecting and then publishing its annual “Foremost Under 40” list of young professionals, who are working for a vast array of businesses and non-profit organizations in the publication’s 22-county readership area. This highly-anticipated list

CATA breaks ground for $30 million facility

STATE COLLEGE, PA — The Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) broke ground for its soon-to-be expanding main facility on Oct. 10. The expansion project is expected to cost $30 million to make the facility large enough for the growing CATA community. The process will take

LNG facility to be constructed in Bradford County

NORTH TOWANDA TOWNSHIP, PA – REV LNG Inc. based in Ulysses is planning to construct a facility in Bradford County that will cool locally produced natural gas to its liquid form, so that it can be used as a fuel in the long-range trucking industry. REV LNG Inc. will construct off Dolan Road in Herrick Township, which will produce up to 50,000 gallons a day of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the company’s chief executive officer, David Kailbourne, told the Bradford County Planning Commission at its most recent meeting.

The amount of LNG that the plant will produce will be much less than is typically produced at other LNG production facilities, Kailbourne said.

The plant in Herrick Township will be “one of the first of its kind,” Kailbourne said. LNG plants exist “all over the country, but on a larger scale,” he said.

No other plants that produce LNG exist in Bradford County, said Sarah Reichard, Bradford County planner.

REV LNG, which owns tanker trucks that transport LNG, “is an LNG distribution company, that is very much like a propane distribution company,” Kailbourne told the Planning Commission.

“We distribute LNG to 18-wheel trucking fleets (owned by other companies) and to drilling rigs,” he said. Currently, the company supplies LNG to more than a dozen drilling rigs in the Marcellus Shale that operate using LNG as a fuel, he said.

Up to five tanker trucks would transport LNG from the Herrick Township facility each day, he said.

Robinson firm reaping Shale gas rewards

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Photo credit: The Associated Press

ROBINSON, PA (AP) — The number of employees at Civil & Environmental Consultants (CEC) in Robinson has jumped from about 425 to more than 650 over the past five years, thanks to the shale boom.

According to spokeswoman Emily Chiodo, drilling in the Marcellus shale started to increase in 2007-08, and the company’s revenue from that sector totaled less than $2 million. Last year, it hit $32 million.

Pictured below are Barry Wolfe, CEC’s corporate director of human resources (left) and Dustin Kuhlman, CEC’s vice president and natural gas industry consultant group lead.

Transco Pipeline owner in $50 billion merger

(AP) — Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams Companies Inc., which owns the Transco interstate natural gas pipeline that runs through Luzerne County, announced that its limited partnership, Williams Partners L.P., will merge with Oklahoma City-based Access Midstream Partners, L.P. in an approximately $50 billion deal.

“This is another big step toward our goal of becoming the leading natural gas infrastructure provider in North America,” Williams’ Chief Executive Officer Alan Armstrong said in a prepared statement. “The combination of Access Midstream Partners’ intense focus on natural gas gathering with Williams Partners’ broader service offerings along the value chain is yielding even more robust growth opportunities.”

When the merger is complete, which is expected to happen by early 2015, Williams Partners will be wholly owned by Access Midstream, and the merged master limited partnership will be named Williams Partners LP.

Region’s young professionals honored

foremost under 40

For several years, The Pennsylvania and Marcellus Business Central has been collecting and then publishing its annual “Foremost Under 40” list of young professionals, who are working for a vast array of businesses and non-profit organizations in the publication’s 22-county readership area.

This highly-anticipated list is one that acknowledges young professionals under the age of 40 who are on the move and on the “watch list” – the movers and the shakers who are going to shape the destiny of our regional B2B markets in the years ahead.

This annual list is a reminder that despite the many economic challenges that face businesses and the young people who run them, the generation on the rise is more than capable of meeting those challenges.

This year, 36 finalists were selected from the largest pool of nominations ever collected in the history of “Foremost Under 40.”  This year’s winners include a variety of professions, including bankers, accountants, CEOs, executive directors, real estate agents, self-employed business owners and entrepreneurs.

The Pennsylvania and Marcellus Business Central has been accepting nominations from a variety of sources since mid-September including from individuals, co-workers, business owners, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and other interested business professionals.

All submissions were collected and given to an editorial selection committee, which chose the final selections from the nominations received in recent weeks. The selection committee based its final selections on nominees who have steadily moved forward in their careers either through promotions within the same company or by transferring to other companies to take advantage of bigger opportunities. Also considered were professionals who started their own business or expanded existing businesses. The committee also looked at the nominee’s investment into supporting community functions, such as volunteerism or mentoring opportunities.

The Pennsylvania and Marcellus Business Central congratulates all of the 36 young professionals honored in the 2014 Foremost Under 40.

Foremost Under 40 2014:

Angela Chapman Butler County   Megan-Adams West Cambria County
Tyler Satterfield Cambria County Kevin McGarry Centre County
Christie Pace Centre County Luke Shively Indiana County
Kristen Connolly Centre County Brandon Katzeff Fayette County
Elizabeth Hutton Indiana County Christopher D. Weir Cambria County
Rachel Fawcett Centre County Jared R. Mishler Cambria County
David M. Swisher Centre County Gregory T. Hayes Centre County
Nathan Saltzer Centre County Wendy P. Smith Indiana County
Jeremy & Jennifer Shearer Cambria County John W. Sabo, Sr. Butler County
Matthew Dowling Westmoreland County Seth E. Alberts Lyocming County
Taylor Mitcham Centre County Whitney Fetterman Northumberland County
Jeremy Frank Centre County Frank Rezk Cambria County
Colleen Williams Centre County Dustin G. Greene Cambria County
Aaron Berarducci Butler County Michelle Maksymik Cambria County
Eric Sauder Centre County Steven W. Garner Centre County
Ernest J. Sekerak Cambria County Eric A. Johnson Clearfield County
Richard L. Greslick Clearfield County Kristina Taylor-Porter Centre County
Michael DePasquale Centre County Kory Datres Lycoming County

 

CATA breaks ground for $30 million facility

Toby Fauver of PennDot, left, CATA General Manager Louwana Olivia, State Senator Jake Corman, U.S. Congressman Glenn Thompson, Kim Bierly of Senator Bob Casey's office, CATA Board Member Joe Davidson, CATA Board Member Richard Kipp and CATA Board Member Tom Kurtz break ground on CATA's expanding main facility on Oct. 10.

Toby Fauver of PennDot, left, CATA General Manager Louwana Olivia, State Senator Jake Corman, U.S. Congressman Glenn Thompson, Kim Bierly of Senator Bob Casey’s office, CATA Board Member Joe Davidson, CATA Board Member Richard Kipp and CATA Board Member Tom Kurtz break ground on CATA’s expanding main facility on Oct. 10.

STATE COLLEGE, PA — The Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) broke ground for its soon-to-be expanding main facility on Oct. 10.
The expansion project is expected to cost $30 million to make the facility large enough for the growing CATA community. The process will take place in three phases of construction, with the general contractor beginning the work later in October.

“We are really excited to begin this process,” said Olivia Louwana, CATA General Manger. “[CATA] has outgrown the current facility.  We’ve had to have two or three people to an office at sometimes, so clearly we have majorly outgrown the space.  We’re going to be operating here during construction, so that will be fun.”

When Louwana started, the CATA facility could hold 40 buses that are 30 feet long. By December, they will have approximately 71 buses that are 40 feet long. Other features of the expansion include full service body shop and paint booth, a state of the art maintenance facility and the capacity to hold up to 102 buses. When it is all said and done, it will be an 186,800-square-foot facility.
U.S. Congressman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Bellefonte, said that he has been watching CATA “put 40 pounds of flour into a 20 pound sack” for a while.
Thompson described the project as “a model for all public-private partnerships, and an incredible investment.”
“CATA is a wonderful organization to work with and watch, share and experience the growth the CATA has undergone,” Thompson said. “I look forward to continuing the connection between the community and commerce.”
Olivia hopes that the project will be completed between winter of 2016 and spring of 2017.

[CP]2 hosts first [Bracket] Awards

Sample Media's Centered magazine won two silver awards in the magazine category at the [Bracket] awards.

Sample Media’s Centered magazine won two silver awards in the magazine category at the [Bracket] awards.

STATE COLLEGE, PA —Central Pennsylvania Creative Professionals — [CP]2 — hosted the first-ever Bracket Awards on Thursday, Oct. 9, at Black Sun Studio located on the 700 block of East Beaver Avenue.

[CP]2 is a professional organization dedicated to elevating and inspiring Central Pennsylvania’s community of marketing, communication and creative professionals by providing opportunities for education, networking and recognition.

The Bracket Awards featured the best in advertising, design, web and broadcast work. More than 120 were submitted to juried competition, judged by independent out-of-town advertising agency creative directors. Gold and silver award winners were be introduced by Carolyn Donaldson of WTAJ-TV.

Sample Media’s Centered magazine earned two silver awards in the magazine category, specifically the Summer and Winter publications.

“We are thrilled to be acknowledged in this way,” said Editor Erika Isler. “We have a wonderful team of people fully engaged and living the magazine’s tagline–’Life in Balance.’

“When we started this magazine, we surely didn’t have our sights set on winning awards,” Isler continued. “Still, the fact that the creative community recognizes the talent of our team–and the beautiful magazine that we’ve created–is a huge thrill.

“We are humbled and grateful to have received two silver awards. And we’re very proud of everyone that contributes their talents to this magazine in every issue,” Isler said.

Mark Dello Stritto, [CP]2’s club president and owner of Loaded Creative in State College,  said this first event was very important to the local and regional community.

“It provides an opportunity for all to showcase the best of their work and see what other creatives are doing,” Dello Stritto said. “Just as importantly, it is a great place for regional businesses—the client side—to see what talent is available to them in the central PA market.”

The Bellefonte-based Loaded Creative received eight awards — 3 gold and 5 silver — for the areas of package design, print advertising, radio advertising, television advertising, corporate video and integrated media campaign.

The work recognized was produced for four Loaded Creative clients; Alpha Fire Company, Bonfatto’s Apocalips hot sauce and Spice Cream, Lycoming Engines and ORX Rail.

“We’re very honored to have received eight awards at the Bracket Awards – the first event of its kind in our region,” Dello Stritto said. “We’re proud of our work and grateful that our clients trust us to produce unique, creative ideas for their marketing needs.”

Other winners included:

  • 3Twenty9
  • AccuWeather
  • Christian Baum
  • BlBlack Sun
  • Drawstring Design Co.
  • Figure Films
  • Graphics & Design
  • Impressions
  • Lake Creative Communications
  • Magnum Broadcasting
  • MoJo Active
  • Rowland Creative
  • Snavely Associates
  • Wix Pix Productions

[CP]2, formerly known as the I99 Ad Club, is now in its fifth year. Membership is open to all professionals who want to network within the regional advertising and marketing community, and attend continuing educational opportunities related to the advertising and design industry.

 

Legal advice via the Internet?

Some call her the “guru” of virtual law offices. Some consider her the “godmother” of Web-based women-owned law firms. Less admiring peers have accused her of not having a bona fide law practice and mocked her for practicing law at home while drinking lattes in her sweatpants.

Stephanie Kimbro, MA, JD, was one of the revolutionary lawyers who began the virtual law office (VLO) model where document-oriented, transactional law services such as small business incorporations and estate planning are offered to clients exclusively via the Internet, using cloud-based platforms such as Clio, Vox, and VIOP for client communication, document management and practice management.

By investing in software rather than “bricks and mortar,” VLOs can provide many of the same services as traditional law practices but at a lower cost, a fact that some lawyers aren’t happy about, so much so that virtual law offices were banned in New Jersey last year.

“My clients have always been very appreciative of being able to access law services at their convenience,” said Kimbro.

“The clients I worked with when I was a solo practitioner were in need of personal legal services such as estate planning and small business setups, and that’s what most solo lawyers do, but with a virtual office, it’s more convenient for the client and more affordable so they can budget ahead of time, and they can pay online by credit card.”

Another plus for clients is that they don’t need to take off time from work or pay for childcare while they meet with their lawyer.

“I did transactional services for a single mom who worked odd hours, and there was no way she could go to a law office, so we did everything online. I was living in Wilmington, North Carolina, and she was living in Durham, which is about three hours away.

“She had a special needs teenager, and she wanted to set up a trust for him in case something happened to her, he would be cared for.

“So you have people who would never go to a lawyer because it’s not convenient, it’s not affordable, and a virtual law office makes it convenient and affordable for them.”

How much cheaper are VLOs?

“When I worked at a traditional law firm where we did estate planning, we would charge about $2,000 for a couple, who would come in and we’d interview them with a paralegal present, and then we’d draft an estate document and have them review it, and ask them to come in one more time for the final execution, and we’d print the document on fancy paper and put a copy in our filing cabinet.

“Those were all billable hours at $200 an hour. That’s much lower than what they’d be charged by law firms in cities in the northeast, which charge $500 or $600 an hour.

“When I opened my VLO, I was able to use a document assembly tool to streamline the process. What would have taken 10 hours of work, with the technology only took about an hour, so I could charge $800 for an estate planning package for only an hour’s work, which is a decent wage for me, but the clients still saved $1,200.”

If customers save money and can access services online at their convenience by attorneys certified by the state bar, why did the New Jersey State Bar decide that virtual law offices are not considered legitimate law practices while Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states allow them?

“I wrote an article about this ruling in the University of Dayton Law Review, and I concluded from reading the joint opinions of the New Jersey State Bar, and also the opinions of the state bars in Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and New York, which have similar requirements that place office location restrictions on members of their bar associations, that they did not fully understand how the technology works that enables VLOs to operate, nor did they understand the consumer’s need for alternative forms of access to legal services,” said Kimbro.

“For example, the New Jersey State Bar asked: How could we prevent someone from creating a virtual law office, taking money from a client, and then disappearing into cyberspace? How could we find that lawyer to discipline him? That’s misunderstanding how the technology works.

“As a VLO lawyer, you use cloud-based programs, but you, yourself, are not floating around in cyberspace where you can’t be tracked. VLO lawyers, like all lawyers, are licensed with the state, and the state bar requires that you provide contact information in case they need to get in touch with you about client complaints or disciplinary action.”

The other objection the NJ State Bar had was if a VLO is cloud-based, how could the bar do an audit such as trust account auditing?

“Some states do surprise audits on law firms, but it’s a ridiculous objection because a VLO’s records are in the cloud so it’s easier for state bars to get access to those records than it is to travel to a ‘bricks and mortar’ law office and go through the firm’s filing cabinets, with VLOs, they can do the audit from anywhere,” said Kimbro.

“These rulings weren’t about protecting clients at all — because many of them actually want flexibility in their legal services and in working with their attorney. It’s about the old regime wanting to protect their traditional ways of operating and their market share, and by putting these rules down, these state bars were able stop alternative means of legal services delivery, and I think protectionism and a fundamental misunderstanding of VLO technology were behind those decisions.”

If there is anyone who does understand VLO technology, it’s Kimbro. Along with her husband, a software engineer, she developed one of the first platforms for offering law services online. Kimbro was the co-founder of Virtual Law Office Technology, LLC (VLOTech), which was acquired by a large firm, Total Attorneys, in the fall of 2009.

In 2010, Kimbro joined Burton Law LLC, a virtual law firm offering online “unbundled” services (document-based services not requiring legal representation in court) and traditional full-service representation in North Carolina and Ohio.

“When big unbundled legal service firms such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer came online and began advertising their rates, it became hard for me and other solo general practice VLO lawyers to survive, because we couldn’t compete in advertising dollars, nor could we generate the volume of work needed to offer the same low rates,” said Kimbro.

“So I joined Burton Law in North Carolina, which was a hybrid model, incorporating both online services and in-person courtroom litigation, although the firm had no physical home.

“When we needed to meet with a client or have a meeting of the firm’s attorneys, we used Regus and Davinci temporary offices.”

Today, Kimbro lives in Palo Alto, CA where she recently received a fellowship at Stanford Law School for researching online engagement in virtual law firms.

In 2009, she was the recipient of the American Bar Association Keane Award for Excellence in eLawyering. She is also author of several books: Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online (2010); Limited Scope Legal Services: Unbundling and the Self-Help Client (2012), and Consumer Law Revolution: The Lawyers’ Guide to Online Marketing Tools (2013).

Due to the commoditization of transactional law services by web-based mega law firms such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, which perform high volume transactions at low prices, most VLOs have either become hybrids like Burton Law or niche firms that offer unique services which do not compete with the mega sites.

One of those niche VLOs, which Kimbro helped set up, is owned by Judy Young, an attorney who lives in Yardley. Young established her firm in 2007 so that Pennsylvania wineries and hospitality businesses statewide could have the proper counsel and information they need to make sound business, financial, and operational decisions.

“My passion for the law just barely exceeds my passion for wine, vineyards and beautiful destinations,” said Young. “I chose to combine those two passions to provide the best counsel in Pennsylvania law for wineries, vineyards and hospitality businesses that need legal expertise.”

Young is a graduate of famous Windows of the World Wine School in New York and is a certified mixologist from the Professional Bartending School of America. She received her law degree from the Temple University School of Law in Philadelphia.

She gets many of her clients by word of mouth and also through recommendations from the Pennsylvania Winery Association when people call with legal questions or ask how they can set up their winery or hospitality business.

“The Pennsylvania wine, vineyard and hospitality industries are vibrant and growing. That means there can often be complicated and challenging moments the owners will have to face, especially with difficult legal and business issues cropping up nearly every day,” said Young.

“Because I focus on issues within wine, vineyard and hospitality law, I make it my business to stay on top of new developments in the state license board, regulatory requirements for Pennsylvania wineries and hospitality industries, and emerging trends in Pennsylvania law so I can provide the best possible counsel for my clients.

“You can’t find that kind of expertise or get that personal attention on LegalZoom, nor could a solo practice lawyer service wineries and hotels across the entire state from a single ‘bricks and mortar’ office.”

Although virtual businesses have been around since the Internet first began, law firms have been slow in adopting a virtual model, and some state bar associations have thrown up obstacles to prevent VLOs from operating in their states, but the virtual law office is an idea whose time has come.

“More and more virtual law offices are filling niches like I have,” said Young, “and even long established traditional firms are now offering some of their services online.”

Sept. 5 edition of Marcellus Business Central now available!

Read about the Utica Shale Boom, Marcellus Leasing Trends, American Exploration’s move into Clearfield County, and our spotlight on the Northern Tier region of Tioga, Susquehanna and Bradford counties.MBC Sept 5

American Exploration expands to Clearfield County, expects continued growth

CLEARFIELD, PA — In 1997, American Exploration Company based in Plymouth Meeting, Mongtomery County, purchased about 120 wells and property from Dominion. Those wells were drilled in the late 1950s and early 1960s, according to Tim Matthews, Executive Vice President of the company.

In 2010, American Exploration sold those wells to EQT out of Pittsburgh – but continues to maintain and repair those wells and associated pipelines.

“Currently, we do some explorations of natural gas, but not in the Marcellus,” Matthews explained. “We are primarily an oil and natural gas field company. We have changed our focus from exploration, and we are going to the construction side.”

American Exploration has grown from 12 employees in 2013 to 50 in 2014.

“We employ about 50 people,” Matthews said, adding that some of those employees also include management of a subsidiary company – American Landfill Gas — in Kersey, Elk County. “We run that plant for the current owner.”

And as the price of natural gas continues to steadily increase, Matthews said his company will likewise grow to meet the demand for gas-related construction projects.

American Exploration purchased the former Butler Chevrolet building located on the Clearfield-Curwensville Highway in early 2014 to accommodate current and anticipated growth.

“We bought that shop in Clearfield because we needed to be closer to the main roads,” Matthews said. “As we have expanded pretty substantially in the past year, we bought that shop to service our equipment.”

American Exploration rented out the front of the building – which was the dealership’s showroom front – to locally-owned Catamount Consulting, owned by Sam Scribe and his wife, Angel. Catamount’s business is largely based upon safety training, with specialty in OSHA, MSHA and Safeland USA.

“We rented out the showroom front to Catamount Consulting because we really only needed the back space,” Matthews said. “Catamount did all of our safety training for our people, so it was a natural fit.”

Matthews said he anticipates that his company, along with others in the region, will continue to grow.

“We do pipeline work, but not a lot of gas installation. We’re dependent on the industry for continued exploration, and I think the oil and gas industry absolutely will continue to grow,” Matthews said. “I see a lot more exploration as the price of natural gas continues to go up.”

american exploration builidng

 

 

Utica Shale: Another Bakken in the making

The Utica Shale play in eastern Ohio is one of the fastest-growing natural gas plays in the nation. Last month, in recognition of this status, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) added the Utica to its monthly drilling productivity report.

The total production in the Ohio natural gas region, which includes production from the Utica and Point Pleasant formations plus legacy production from conventional reservoirs, has increased from 155 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) in January 2012 to an estimated 1.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in September 2014.

The EIA’s drilling productivity report uses recent data on the total number of drilling rigs in operation along with estimates of drilling productivity and estimated changes in production from existing oil and natural gas wells to provide up-to-date oil and natural gas production figures for seven key regions: Bakken (bah′-ken), Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Marcellus, Niobrara, Permian, and Utica. (see table)

These seven regions accounted for 95 percent of domestic oil production growth and all domestic natural gas production growth during 2011-13.

EIA’s approach does not distinguish between oil-directed rigs and gas-directed rigs because once a well is completed it could produce both oil and gas. More than half of the wells in the shale plays produce both.

In 2012, it was the anticipation of drilling oil shale that led Chesapeake Energy, which has the largest number of drilling permits in Ohio, and other E&P companies to pull some rigs from Pennsylvania and Texas and move them to Ohio and other states where shale formations showed promise of producing more oil and natural gas liquids.

In the past two years, Chesapeake has spent $17 million alone to widen, repair and build new roads to transport equipment and workers to and from its well sites in Ohio.

The Utica shale play, now in its third year, is producing an average 37,000 barrels of oil per day. By comparison, the Marcellus shale play, which is in its seventh year and covers a much larger area, with many more active wells (6,391 vs. 553 for the Utica), is producing 50,000 barrels per day.

For new oil production (the first 30 days a well comes online), the Utica surpasses the Marcellus, Haynesville and Permian shale plays.

The Utica is now producing almost as much natural gas as the Bakken Shale. The Utica has an estimated 38 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey; however, the Bakken has significantly more estimated recoverable oil (4.3 billion barrels vs. 940 million barrels for the Utica).

The Bakken formation is rock from the late Devonian to Early Mississippian age, which occupies approximately 200,000 square miles under parts of Montana and North Dakota in the U.S., and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada. It’s named after Henry Bakken, a farmer in Tioga, North Dakota, who owned the land where the formation was first discovered while the farm was being drilled for conventional oil.

The Utica formation took its name from the city of Utica, N.Y., where it outcrops at the earth’s surface. The Utica was deposited in a deep ocean basin about 450 million years ago during a period geologists call the Ordovician.

Ohio was one of the first states where the oil and gas industry originated. Standard Oil, the famous oil company of John D. Rockefeller, was established in Ohio in 1870. Over the past few decades, Ohio’s once-active oil production has been steadily declining, but now eastern Ohio, home to Point Pleasant, the liquids-rich “sweet spot” of the Utica shale play, is changing that.

As with the Bakken, it was long known that oil existed in the Utica shale, and hydrofracturing was already pulling up oil from the wet gas in southwestern Pa. and other shale plays, but it wasn’t until oil prices jumped to more than $100 per barrel in early 2012 that oil exploration in the Utica became economically feasible.

Conventional crude oil is relatively cheap to produce and refine, and it produces most of our transportation fuels.

However, drilling the oil shale in Ohio turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. Some the oil located in oil shale region of western Ohio was too shallow to provide enough pressure to come up through hydrofracturing. The deeper oil found in the Utica proved more difficult to permeate the shale rock than natural gas.

“We haven’t really unlocked the code yet as to how to get the oil out of the shale, it’s harder to get oil molecules to move through rock than gas molecules,” said Mike Chadsey, director of public relations for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA).

OOGA is a trade association with more than 3,300 members involved in the exploration, production and development of crude oil and natural gas resources in Ohio.

“We have to figure out what kind of technologies we need to put in place — the frack fluid, the pressures, how long to drill the laterals– there’s a lot of things that need to come together in order to extract the oil from the shale,” said Chadsey

“We have a good understanding of the dry gas and the wet gas, we just have to figure out the oily gas, so it’s coming — our companies are working on it, and we’ll eventually get there.”

It’s the oil that’s mixed with the “wet gas” that’s now being extracted in the Utica.

E&P companies have drilled for natural gas in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, with 198 wells being drilled in the Utica/Point Pleasant formations. Carroll County has the most active wells in Ohio, with 87 wells drilled.

In Pennsylvania, Bradford County has the most active wells, with 1,142 — more than twice as many as all the gas wells in Ohio. However, as in other shale gas producing counties in the Northern Tier, the Marcellus wells produce only methane, the “dry” component of natural gas, which is less valuable than “wet gas.”

“Our dry gas extends over the Pennsylvania border, and as you move west, you get into the wet gas window and then farther west, you move into the oil shale window, though the oil shale has had limited if any exploration thus far, but that will change in time, particularly as oil prices rise,” said Chadsey. (see map)

The good news for drillers is that nearly all the shale in the Point Pleasant “sweet spot” in the east-central Ohio counties of Belmont, Harrison, Gernsey, Monroe, Jefferson, Carroll and Washington contains “wet gas,” methane mixed with natural gas liquids (NGLs), which adds value to the gas.

The NGLs can be broken down into individual components through processing, and those components such as butane, isobutene, propane, natural gasoline, and ethane have uses in various products and industries. Butane is used in cigarette lighters, propane for heating, and ethane can be “cracked” into ethylene, which is the chief feedstock for the plastics and polymers industries.

According to OOGA, the oil and gas industry has spent nearly $12 billion in Ohio in the last two years, developing processing plants and pipelines to process Utica wet gas and transport it to markets in Canada and the Gulf Coast.

The bad news for the drillers is that due to the low price of methane or “dry gas,” many companies have decided to focus on wet gas in Ohio, southwestern Pa. and elsewhere that the price of NGLs is also dropping.

The Wall Street Journal recently characterized the ethane market as “collapsing,” and said that energy analysts expect NGLs to sell at low prices for years to come.

“The bottom line on the ethane market is that the region that includes the Ohio Valley, eastern Ohio, western Pa. and northern West Virginia needs a cracker facility, which will assist our producers in getting the product to market, and that facility will also attract plastics and polymer manufactures to the region, which means new jobs,” said Chadsey.

“Two companies, Shell and Oderbrecht, have already announced plans to build cracker plants in the Appalachian basin, Shell in Pennsylvania near the Ohio border, and Oderbrecht in northern West Virginia.

“Time will tell if they intend to follow through with their plans, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, there should be plenty of wet gas production to justify building a cracker plant or two.”