Marcellus Shale is an organic-rich sedimentary rock formation deep underground. It runs from the Southern Tier of New York state through northern and western Pennsylvania, western Maryland and most of West Virginia. It was named for a distinctive outcrop near the village of Marcellus, in New York. The shale contains largely untapped natural gas reserves which can be used in energy development.
Although it has been known for a long time that the shale contained natural gas deposits, it was not until technologies were perfected in the Barnett Shale region of Texas, specifically horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, that the gas could be removed in a commercially viable way.
Development of the shale is a huge economic opportunity for the region. It has attracted investments by large companies, created high wage jobs and provided opportunities for local businesses. In Lycoming County alone, 75 new businesses related to the gas industry have moved to the area. Lisa Powers,director of public information for Penn State University, believes this may be one of the largest natural gas deposits in the world. She said, "The Marcellus Shale is obviously a significant resource for Pennsylvania and a tremendous opportunity for economic development, but it comes with a lot of challenges."
The potentially negative impact on the environment has raised concerns.These environmental concerns surrounding the drilling and extraction processes have sparked opposition to development of this resource. One concern is releasing naturally-occurring, radioactive underground material through the drilling fluids and equipment to the environment. The hydraulic fracturing process also uses large quantities of surface water. In addition to causing road damage, when heavy trucks and tankers drive over farmland, they compact the subsoil, which increases runoff and decreases crop productivity for years. Ecologists also have concerns about the ecological impact on forests when trees are cut down to make way for access roads. Ornithologists have already documented declining populations of woodland birds.
Ultimately, Marcellus Shale may offer the big-picture advantage of energy independence. The advantages of national energy independence and local economic benefits should be weighed against the environmental concerns.
Marcellus Shale Businesses
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