The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 30, 2013

Marcellus gas drill site planned in Jackson Twp.

Work may begin by late summer

David Hurst
dhurst@tribdem.com

— An internationally-known energy company hopes to develop a Marcellus Shale well in Jackson Township in the fall.

Chevron officials say they expect to have a state mining permit soon that will allow them to drill an assessment well on a multi-acre site alongside Blackburn Road.  

If all goes as planned, construction – primarily excavation work – will begin in August or September on a sportsmen’s club property to get the pad site ready for drilling, said Mikal Zimmerman, Chevron’s policy and public affairs officer.

“We’re starting with one well. And adding this well. ... And the information we gather from it will help us determine how to proceed next,” said Zimmerman, noting the gas the well yields will give Chevron officials the “hard data” they need to decide whether more wells should follow nearby.

Chevron has been an oil industry giant for decades but dove into the Marcellus Shale market in 2011.

The company purchased Moon Township-based Atlas Energy that year for $3.2 billion  – a move that added 486,000 acres in Marcellus gas rights to its holdings.  Just months later, Chevron added 228,000 acres in Chief Oil and Gas lease rights, including sprawling tracts in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Chevron is among several major companies that have been drawn in by the promise of plentiful Marcellus gas.

Chevron’s Jackson Township well would be placed on Goldenrod Sportsmen’s Club property alongside Blackburn Road, Zimmerman said.

The well would likely bring numerous construction jobs, as well as about 18 workers on the well site once drilling is underway, Zimmerman said.

“It sometimes doesn’t sound like much. But there’s a Marcellus effect” she said. “It means other workers have to manufacture the tubing we need. Someone will have to come in and set up the lights. There’s a lot of support jobs.

“A whole lot of puzzle pieces fit together to create the economic benefit,” Zimmerman said.

It’s good news for the area, Jackson Township manager Dave Hirko said.

“As long as they do the work safely and responsibly, we welcome it,” Hirko said.

He said Chevron has been keeping the township apprised of its plans for some time.

“They’ve really made themselves available for us,” he said.

Earlier this year, the township approved road bond agreements with Chevron at $12,500 per mile that will allow the company to use portions of Blackburn and Kepple roads for access and hauling, Hirko said.

Chevron would haul equipment and other drilling materials to its well pad via routes 22 and 271, Benshoff Hill Road and then Blackburn and Kepple, he said.

The company was initially talking with the Cambria Somerset Authority about leasing some of the authority’s Blackburn Road land, but the idea is now on hold, CSA manager Earl Waddell said.

Chevron has decided to get its current project underway before expanding its territory, Waddell said, adding that the two sides may revisit the idea in the future.

Zimmerman said the company is very methodical in its approach to a project.

“A lot of people say we move very slowly. Sometimes it’s to the point where people near the project area wonder if we’re still there,” she said. “But we take the time and do it right.”

That often means “gaps” between necessary steps, she said.

“We don’t usually finish construction and then start drilling the next day,” Zimmerman added.  “It could be months  ... even a year.”

“What we constantly emphasize with our workforce and business partners is that we do a project safely or not at all – it’s about taking the time to do it right.”

Chevron can afford to do that because of the investment it has made into shale resources in the region, she said.

“We’ve made a big investment here,” Zimmerman said of the company’s western Pennsylvania presence. “This is something we’re measuring on a decade to decade basis, not month to month.”