|Marcellus Watch: Mythbusters Tackle Frack Hype
By Peter Mantius
Posted Nov. 4, 2013 @ 11:32 am
The peddlers of false hope are in a tizzy over the latest challenge to their myth that natural gas will be an economic "game-changer" for upstate New York.
So far, they've responded with attack-mode sound bites rather than actual rebuttal to new evidence that gas drilling prospects for the Southern Tier have been over-promoted. After four retired professionals presented that evidence at Cornell University last week, a spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York arrogantly brushed them off.
"They're a joke," he told the Ithaca Journal. "They're really activists posing as educators."
Those who put their full trust in the industry's glossy pap don't need to read any further. For others who prefer a dose of reality, here's what the data suggest:
-- The vast majority of New York's Marcellus shale layer is too thin and too shallow to yield "economically recoverable" natural gas. Six counties do show limited promise. More than half of the landowners in Broome, Tioga and Sullivan can expect their wells to produce at nearly the average level of 1,540 studied wells across the Pennsylvania border. Smaller fractions of Chemung, Chenango and Delaware may match those levels. But drilling in the northern sections of those six best-case counties -- and the rest of the state -- is very likely to be uneconomical.
-- Even assuming New York State ends its moratorium on high-volume hydrofracking, there will be little gas drilling in the Southern Tier until the market price of gas rises substantially. That may take a decade, according to the Energy Information Administration -- sooner if the United States begins exporting gas in a big way.
-- When market prices do finally rise, most drilling will be conducted in a few communities near the Pennsylvania border by wildcatters that have found investors daring enough to try to beat unfavorable odds. There will probably be a few highly productive wells. They'll also be plenty of expensive low performers and dry holes that wreck company balance sheets (and farmers' property values). It will be like playing the casino. There will be jackpots, but the wildcatters will be betting against "the house." In this case, the house is the state's poor geology for drilling. That's why the major players (the smart money) are likely to continue to shy away.
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