The following is an excerpt from the OIL & GAS Journal – it is the first analysis of the job impact of the Marcellus and how it relates to the Western Slope.

Boost in Marcellus shale jobs, economy expected, study says


Aug 2, 2010
By Nick Snow

Development of Marcellus shale natural gas could create 280,000 jobs and add $6 billion of federal, state, and local tax revenues over the next decade, a new study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute concluded. But the growth could be less if state and local governments dramatically increase taxes or impose very restrictive regulations, its author warned.

“Striking the right balance involves looking at all the costs of production,” said Timothy J. Considine of Natural Resource Economics Inc. in Laramie, Wyo. “My recommendation is to get this industry established and let it grow. It will generate additional revenues for economic activity.”

There are many more shale gas plays worldwide as well as in the US, and producers are comparing their economics with those of the Marcellus as they make their exploration and production decisions, Considine warned in a July 21 teleconference with reporters.

“It’s a very different world in 2010. Gas companies can move their chips to other parts of the table,” Considine said. “If too many taxes are imposed, drilling moves elsewhere. We’ve seen this in the United States: Drilling is down in the Rocky Mountains, it’s falling in parts of Texas, and it’s growing in the Marcellus.”

State policies affect activity within the three-state Marcellus region itself, where most of the 57,000 jobs added in 2009 were in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and not in New York, which has a de facto moratorium on horizontal drilling, he said. Growth was greater in Pennsylvania, which does not have a severance tax, than in West Virginia, which does, he indicated.

Second-largest

The report noted that some estimates place recoverable gas reserves in the formation, which extends from New York’s southern tier across Pennsylvania and into West Virginia, at 489 tcf, placing it second in the world only to the Pars field in Qatar and Iran.

“It’s an exciting development for East Coast energy. A lot of people from New York to Washington have no idea there’s a supergiant gas resource 150 miles west of where they live,” said Considine, adding, “Even under rapid development out to 2020, production would use up only 8% of the reserves in the region. The Marcellus is going to be around for years to come. I view it as a generational resource that will be around well into this century.”

The study is the first to examine Marcellus shale economics in all three states, he noted. It used an economic model developed by the Minnesota-based IMPLAN Group Inc. and produced low, medium, and high development scenarios ranging no change from current state policies to adoption of policies encouraging aggressive development.

Under the low development scenario, New York’s de facto horizontal drilling moratorium stays in place and drilling modestly expands in Pennsylvania and West Virginia from roughly 1,100 wells in 2010 to more than 1,700 wells in 2020, increasing production to 4 bcfd. This would generate $9 billion in value added and more than 100,000 new jobs in 2020, or roughly 12 jobs for every $1 million of value added, according to the NRE study.

In its medium development scenario, modest development begins in New York in 2011, reserves per well are higher, and the pace of future drilling is faster. This would push production to 9.5 bcfd in 2020, generating more than $16 billion in economic output, almost $4 billion of additional tax revenue, and more than 180,000 jobs.

Behind Texas

The high development scenario’s greater level of activity stays within the realm of possibilities based on recent experience in the Barnett shale play in Texas, the NRE study said. In this case, the level of activity could generate almost $25 billion in value added and more than 280,000 jobs. More than 18 bcfd of gas would be produced, making the Marcellus the largest US producer behind all of Texas, the study said.

Considine said the study considers New York development along the state’s southern tier only outside New York City’s watershed and the Delaware River basin. The counties are modestly populated, similar to those in Pennsylvania immediately south, where development of the Trenton deep gas formation already has produced economic benefits, he said.

“We only considered environmental cleanup costs to the extent that companies reported that in their cost data,” he said, adding, “In previous studies, we collected detailed information including collecting and disposing of recovered frac water. We did not consider costs in terms of environmental quality degradation. There are widely differing values you can place on these damages.”

Considine noted that in the Barnett shale play, there are thousands of wells in city parks, residential areas, and other places in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. “Part of the problem with the Marcellus is that people in those parts of Pennsylvania are not used to this level of development,” he said. “I think the industry needs to educate them to place this in perspective.”

API has been trying to do exactly that. “We’ve been going out and trying to get the facts out about this development to counter the misrepresentations other organizations have been making,” said John C. Felmy, its chief economist, who also participated in the teleconference. “We admit that incidents have happened, that any incident is one too many, and that we have standards and practices designed to avoid them.”

Local services

Impacts on demands for local governmental services won’t be as great as in several rural parts of the US West in the 1970s when several large electric utilities constructed coal-fired power plants, he and Considine maintained. “The comparison of size is important. The difference between building a 1,000-Mw power plant for billions of dollars and these gas wells in million-dollar terms is substantial,” Felmy observed.

“These wells are continuous economic contributors, with ongoing activity. It is qualitatively different,” Considine added. “That’s not to denigrate the difficulties and adjustment. But thinking of this in boom-town development terms is not quite accurate.”

He said the study forecast job growth through three different channels: directly in the oil and gas industry, indirectly from a chain of outlays in supporting industries, and economic growth from property owners’ royalties and new jobholders spending money from their paychecks and paying taxes.

“Maintaining production from these wells will be like running on a treadmill,” he predicted. “Slowing down drilling and production would negatively impact employment and economic growth. If governments pursue policies that encourage the development of natural gas, the ultimate benefits to the economy, the tax base, and society would be significant.”

Federal water regulation is not needed, added Stephanie Meadows, an API senior upstream policy advisor, who also participated in the teleconference. “The states are doing a proper job. We developed guidance documents to help them, but the states are acting on their own,” she told reporters. “Many members in the Marcellus are not API members, so our guidance documents are designed to help them. The events are few and far between. There’s no need for another layer of oversight.”

Felmy recalled seeing seismic crews collecting data when he was growing up in Pennsylvania and wondering what they were finding. “Now we know, and it was impossible to produce until recently,” he said. “There’s no question that the resource is a wonderful play. But developing the gas is only the first step. You still have to get pipes through those hills to the trunk lines, and you have to cross bodies of water. Pennsylvania has several major trunk lines already, but enough additional costs could tip the scales.”

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Just finished going through an experience with the Rio Blanco County Informational service. They have begun to write a communication each week in the local paper, I guess to inform the folks of what is going on in the county, etc.  Actually what is happening is that they are exposing their mind set to the people of the county for the first time. We are now seeing their closed door environment issuing forth weekly and their “justification” for it.

The first article was entitled “Drill, Baby, Drill” – an interesting title for the first communication. So it was a must read. I couldn’t get past the fact they are very sincere even if their numbers or facts are no where near correct. There is the “state” line to follow. Anyway, below is the article itself and my response to this article, which was published in the same local paper this July 8, 2010.

The Herald Times

Rio Blanco County

Meeker, Colorado

Article Published 6/29/2010

The County Cubicle: Drill, baby, drill is county policy

Posted by Special to the Herald Times on 6/29/10 • Categorized as County

Editor’s note: In an effort to keep residents informed on happenings within county government, county employees will contribute biweekly articles for “The County Cubicle.”
These articles may include responses to reader questions or expression of interest. Readers are encouraged to submit questions or suggestions to County Administrator Pat Hooker at 878-9436 or phooker@co.rio-blanco.co.us

Want to know one of the least-known facts about the natural gas industry in Colorado? The state produced a record amount of natural gas in 2009. What? How can that be, what with the drop in gas prices, the national recession and the new state drilling rules?
“I thought the gas industry was gone,” you say. Actually, the natural gas companies in Colorado produced 61.8 trillion cubic feet of gas in 2009, compared to the previous high of 44.4 trillion cubic feet in 2008.
“Well, maybe, but the number of drilling rigs operating in the state was way down, so isn’t the number of new wells also way down?” For Colorado, permits for new wells numbered 5159 in 2009 compared to 8027 in 2008, which was the highest year ever. But how does this number compare to previous years? Again a surprise, 2009 was the fourth-highest year on record for Colorado. In Rio Blanco County, there was an even smaller change. Here, 141 wells were drilled in 2008 and 139 in 2009. This compares favorably to the rest of the state and nation, where well numbers were off 30 to 40 percent.
The rig count is down in Colorado and in the county, yet with the recent advances in drilling methods many of the companies can drill a well in 30 percent less time than was possible just a couple of years ago. The gas companies are also drilling multiple wells from one pad and so do not have the usual downtime associated frequent moving the drilling rig. So a reduced rig count does not mean a reduced number of new wells. Wells are now being drilled with a lot fewer rigs.
What is Rio Blanco County doing to support the gas companies in the extraction of gas locally? The county has always taken the position that we support the responsible extraction of natural resources. By working closely with all the operators, we are able to process and approve applications for new wells in a matter of days, not the months typical of other regulators. We have also permitted a number of large pipeline projects in the county, which have allowed prices for local gas to equalize with the rest of the nation. This is in part why we have not seen the same reduction in the level of drilling experienced elsewhere.
Granted, things are much quieter in town than they were two years ago. That is to be expected with the completion of the fourth major gas plant and two major pipelines in the last three years. Each of these projects required hundreds of workers during the construction phases. The day-to-day operation of each facility requires only a few people. Other gas plants and pipelines are in the planning stages, but they will probably not go forward until the price of natural gas rebounds. With that rebound, we may again see full motels, restaurants with waiting lists and long waits to turn onto Market Street.
If you have questions or comments, contact the Rio Blanco County Planning Office at 878-9580.

My Response was originally four pages filled with real facts and statistics – way to big to print; hence the condensed version.

Jeff:


Enjoy the paper as usual!  I especially enjoyed the fact that the county has begun an informational column entitled “The County Cubicle.”  I believe the dialogue will be very useful.  So in order to put the first article “Drill, baby, drill” into prospective with a solid footing, I would like to present information that is of record via the EIA, COGCC, Baker Hughes and other reference sources regarding the base statistics presented in the column and then introduce some public discussion points for the county.


First some basic definitions:

Tcf – means a trillion cubic feet of natural gas, predominately made up of methane, measured at a standard temperature and pressure.

Bcf – a billion cubic feet of gas.

MMBO – million barrels of oil

COGCC – Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission


According to the EIA, the statistical arm of the DOE, the entire United States uses approximately 22 Tcf gas per year – this has been a fairly consistent number for more than a decade.  The gas producers produce from 19-21 Tcf/year.  Yes, the US has to import natural gas also – some 3.5 Tcf/year (source EIA).


According to the COGCC, the yearly production sales numbers for ALL the counties in Colorado are:

2010     First four months 0.546 Tcf + 7.94 MMBO

2009     1.839 Tcf + 28.57 MMBO

2008     1.792 Tcf + 28.78 MMBO

2007     1.669 Tcf + 24.51 MMBO


Current Production Numbers (Sales) for the county are (source COGCC):

Rio Blanco:

2009     61.94 Bcf + 4.94 MMBO

2008     42.30 Bcf + 5.46 MMBO

2007     40.05 Bcf + 5.68 MMBO

2006     42.33 Bcf + 5.68 MMBO

Note the oil falling off – is Rangely Field is going away?


So far in the first four months of 2010 Rio Blanco reports production (well at least the State says so) at 14.44 Bcf.  This would equate to a 43 Bcf yearly pace, clearly falling off as the Piceance Basin needs to be drilled heavily and consistently to keep the production numbers high.  So how does that affect the severance tax base to the state and county?  To address one of the points made in the article, yes 2009 saw a peak in the gas production, but that was mainly work coming on line which was budgeted, permitted and drilled by the crash.  The lead time to come online here in this state is measured in years not months as in most other states.


As to the permit discussion:

There has been much said about this permitting action at the state level as an indicator of interest in doing business in the State of Colorado.  The numbers in the article for a total of 5,159 new drilling applications are true as put out by the State of Colorado.  As far as I can tell, there is really no way to get an independent check on that number – all we have are COGCC staff reports to sort through.  In March 2009, the month before Ritter’s new environmental laws took effect, a record 1,476 applications were submitted.  In the first two months of 2009 a total of 930 new drill applications were submitted, making a total of 2,406 drill applications submitted in the first three months of the year.  The final note the State of Colorado released was that only 1, 274 new drill applications were approved during the last six months of the year. From the staff reports only 2,159 new drilling applications were received from April 1 through the end of the year, a nine month period.  So it appears more than half of the business was conducted in the first three months of the year before the new law went into effect.  I don’t see any joy in the permit fall off numbers.  In actual practice, however, the number of drilling applications does not necessarily portend actual drilling.


Maybe we should just look at the “show me the money” approach to see the potential effects of all this state regulation upon this county in the era of the “low gas price.”  Before the latest bust the Colorado rig count was clicking along at 120+ rigs drilling as the nation was clocking along at about 2,000.  As we rolled through the elections and the new regulations; the gas companies began leaving Colorado for places unknown.  Today the national drilling has recovered to the 1,500 rigs level (data is from the Baker Hughes).  Nationally then the rig count has bounced back an average of 69% since this time last year but Colorado rig count is up only 25% from last year.


Here’s how various other states have recovered:

Wyoming: up 43%

Utah: up 68%

New Mexico: up 71%

Pennsylvania: up 93%

Oklahoma: up 59%

Texas: up 98%


Hmmm…wonder why interest in drilling in Colorado didn’t come back even as close as some of the neighbors with same gas price of course?  Current rig count this week in Rio Blanco County according to Baker Hughes is a whopping 7 wells.  The entire state lost over 70% of the oil/gas business in the crash and it hasn’t come back and may not ever if we are to believe VP Biden.


Some of the article’s discussion details the lack of “gas prices” as being the prime driver that keeps business away.  As long as the free market can continue to hold on in this nation, prices are based on supply and demand.  Costs of doing business in equipment long hauls because there is no infrastructure here, the radical environmentalists, the permits, taxes, and manpower hours to get approvals from every federal, state, county, municipal and yes even the neighborhood agency doesn’t give this state much of a chance to compete for business.  In addition to all those front end load cost factors, there is an unknown amount of regulation and taxes associated with the construction of well pads and plant construction.  So when a businessman looks at a project based in Colorado that has the same amount of geological risk (the normal risk he is trained to evaluate rate of return on) as say a Barnett Shale well in Texas or even a gas well in Wyoming and sees this cloud of regulation settled over Colorado – he doesn’t think too long before the decision is made to go elsewhere.  This is basically what we are experiencing now – the remaining operators here are just drilling their current reserve base that they can make work for less than $4.00/Mcf – there is no new gas exploration going on.


As to the county’s motto “we support the responsible extraction of natural resources” misses the point of the energy industry completely.  That statement focuses on the energy industry means and methods to generate income.  What if we focused on competing for the support businesses for those gas companies that are left and develop our industrial areas that would support this community for this 100 year industry?  What if we spent time working with the state on these severance issues so we don’t have to “negotiate” with them for our fair share all the time?


So the conclusion is that even with a rebound in gas prices, drilling, gas plants, pipelines, etc the energy business will not return here unless there is a complete new spirit inserted in the definition of “responsible extraction of natural resources.”



Some fast fact resources:

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/hist/n9050co2a.htm

http://cogcc.state.co.us/


David Meece

Later:

While digging through the files I came upon the following chart that gives a visual of what has happened to Colorado:

Enjoy!

 

Love gram from ATT

I received this memo last Wednesday morning and began a marathon research to understand what had happened and what could be resolved.  After calling AT&T early Wednesday and after being passed around to various parties and finally ending up with a special “off-usage” customer service agent, it was expressed (emphatically) that we have 60 days to find another carrier because they were going to “shut-off” the roaming to our phones.  After that there would be another 30 day time period where voice roaming would also be shut off.  Since we don’t live or office on an AT&T “home” network, all our cell phones had effectively just became useless.


This whole affair came to light not by a communication from AT&T, but by our action to move up to a new “droid” 3g style smart phone.  The letter above arrived in less than 2 weeks of activation– the phone had already used 5 times more bandwidth than we normally used.  Most of that data was background material that was being sent out without our involvement.  It seems 3g likes to talk to somebody all the time, even when we didn’t actuate it.  Be that as it may, bottom line after trying to plead, pay more, etc – we were told the phones would be cut off and we are on a time line – (sorry about all the decades you have been with us – that’s life.)


I began the background research in all this and also made some calls to our friends in the area.  It appears we are not the only ones going through this “squeeze” – it appears ALL the major carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobil, and Sprint) are going to the balance sheet and rolling out the costs.  In order to get out of their contracts, they are pulling out every weasel clause they had put in their fine print of the TOS.  Again there is nothing in writing but reading the various statements by the AT&T president about how they underestimated the 3g iPhone response had impacted their networks, the charges (reported $1.0 billion for the 1st quarter) for obamacare and the general commerce turn down of 2009 – it appears they have turned the accountants loose to squeeze the balance sheet.  While doing this review I noted that AT&T and Verizon were not only picking on their civilian customers, the various business articles were resplendent in details about throwing T-Mobil and Sprint, separately or jointly, under the “roaming” bus.


I made a trip down to the local AT&T store (50 miles away) where I learned that yes it was true for the Piceance Basin and the various cities located therein where AT&T roam is being shut off.  They reported this began in earnest some two months ago.  Again this was all verbal; their boss heard it from the regional boss, etc – (gotta’ keep those class action suits under control.)  The first ones affected appear to be the oil field workers that commuted and did business in the Basin each day (last estimate would be about 2,000+ folks).  Next on the hit parade were the communities themselves.  There are some reports around that some of the locals experienced this bounce as early as last October.  Best guess would be that some 5,000 people (maybe much more, some families own more than 1 cell/family) could be affected in all this and most of the NW quadrant of Colorado.  I didn’t check down south of I-70 to see if the entire Western Slope is going to be cut off, but since 3g from AT&T is only in the corridor from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, I’m guessing they are in for it also.  In a response, I’ve heard that Halliburton has already rolled off AT&T here and the other companies and utilities are aware of the issues and they are exploring their options.


So the question became, where do you start the search to find a local regional carrier out of the some 180 carriers in the US?  This was very reminiscent of the first time I had to do this when cell phones first came out in the 90’s.  I had really thought we were beyond this at this point.  I localized this research to the available towers in the Meeker area.  From the city-data website, http://www.city-data.com/towers/cell-Meeker-Colorado.html, I was able to begin to unravel this puzzle.  I found that the main tower I had been using was a “wholesaler” from Atlanta and wouldn’t be of any use.  The other cell towers belonged to or are being leased by a company out of Utah and another out of Wyoming.


After many hours reliving the technology advances in the last 10 years, it all boiled back down to the base technologies from the 90’s.  As a review, these webpages; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_mobile_phone_standards &

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectral_efficiency_comparison_table#Comparison_table will give a fast update of the technologies.  There is a blizzard of technical data available.  But, it’s really two camps as it was back in the day – GSM or CDMA.  GSM is the “protocol” that ATT & T-Mobile and essentially the rest of the world have followed.  CDMA is essentially the American technology path that Verizon and Sprint have chosen.  Most of the build out we experience these days were actually rolled out more than 8 years ago –CDMA+EVDO & GSM+EDGE.


As for the Meeker area, and for that matter all the Northern Piceance Basin (AT&T cell coverage ends at the bowling alley, 3 miles north of the Rifle town center), there are just two choices for regional providers.  For GSM, it’s the Wyoming Union Wireless – For CDMA it’s the Utah Strata Networks, both companies are actively pushing their networks in here.  In some cases they are sharing towers to get their various technologies into the region.  Strata is running CDMA-EVDO which is a spread frequency technology that is known for its clarity of the voice signal.  Union is running GSM+EDGE whose foundation is the old stable TDMA laid over by GSM.


In general the pros and cons of company selection will be ease of use and range of signal.  You can see a list of technical advantages and disadvantages on the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_mobile_phone_standards.  Note the hilly terrain characteristics.


Still, the selection of a single company for all the solutions maybe difficult.  I know that many of the service/utility trucks in this area carry both a GSM & CDMA cell phones and if necessary FM radios – if they need to be more remote.  For those that office and home here, the selection will be made based on use and possible past experience with the individual technology.  Customer service will be vital.  For most of us, who travel this region frequently, roaming becomes a critical issue again.  Union has roaming contracts with AT&T (but not 3g for iPhone users), Strata with Verizon.  Strata’s TOS limits roaming to 30% of total usage.  Is that a hard barrier?  It appears to be since our friends are charged roaming just stepping into Rifle but it’s still an unknown as there has been no conversation on that point and roaming information is not in their brochures that I have found.  Union’s roaming cutoff parameters are not viewable on the available website contract; however it is estimated to be set at 40%.  From personal conversations with the Union people, if the individual roaming plan is selected high enough, this 40% barrier becomes a soft barrier. When a Union Phone hits Rifle it immediately switches to AT&T under its roam.


For some of us that travel internationally, the GSM factor will be the decider.  CDMA can not go international right now, even though there is discussion about a future blending of protocols to permit this – its just not available today.


To shift from Verizon may be tricky.  Since a CDMA phone can not swap providers, your beautiful phone you have come to love is a throw away.  You must get a new phone that is programmed to Strata.  With Union, you obtain the unlock codes for your SIM from AT&T (my customer service lady said they would help do this and port the number over to the new provider) and just put the new Union SIM chip into your favorite phone.


Union is a very old family run telephone business in Wyoming.  Strata Networks is fairly new, constituted from Ubet.


Both Strata and Union are building out here in the Meeker area and the Northern Piceance Basin; in some cases, they are sharing towers.  The glittering generality is that Strata is mainly east-west from Meeker to the Uintah Basin initially cover the Northern Piceance Basin.  Union is strong in southern Wyoming and pushing their network south to cover this region.  Union is in conversation with Strata about hanging cells on some of their towers along Hwy 64 and to position several towers down in the Piceance itself. Both companies are eying Grand Junction as a place to add service.

Union has done very well in building along the Hwy 13 corridor from Rifle to Craig.  Strata’s coverage is limited to a 5 mile stretch on the Rio Blanco and to the edge of 9 mile pass north of Meeker. Strata has built along Hwy 64 from Meeker to Rangely.  Both systems are excellent in the Meeker town area and on the “Mesa,” east of town.


Union has developed a backhaul system utilizing microwave (long line of sight) and in the Meeker area dropping into 6-T1 lines.  This gives the local system about 9.2 mega bits/sec of performance (1.2 MB/S).  The Strata back haul plan is unknown.  Union has mentioned that it would like to go full 3g here in this area with UMTS (7.2 mega bits/sec), but that would take a financial commitment from them and they are waiting to see their customer base gain size and stabilize here.


Contact Data:

Union:

Phone:1- 888 -926-2273

http://www.unionwireless.com/

http://www.unionwireless.com/Cellular.aspx?page=Cellular&subpage=GSM-Coverage



Strata Networks:

Meeker Office: 970-878-0477

https://www.stratanetworks.com/

https://www.stratanetworks.com/images/stories/STRATA_CoverageMap.pdf

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