Lawmakers and landowners take notice as natural gas companies ramp up exploration and drilling in Chenango County

NORWICH – If the geologists are correct about what’s in the ground here, it’s time to start keeping up with the Joneses - or at least talking to them.

That’s the message from the Chenango County Farm Bureau and many landowners. And after a decade of educating and lobbying government regulators on the subject of mineral rights, Farm Bureau President Bradd Vickers said, “It looks like people are finally getting it.”

People are finally paying attention to the rich source of natural gas found in the Marcellus Shale strata that stretches from West Virginia, through Ohio and Pennsylvania and ends in central New York. Estimates vary as to how much gas this field holds, but one estimate from Fredonia State College put the number at 500 trillion cubic feet - more than twice the country's current proven reserves. Actual production will be far more modest, but nonetheless significant.

Experts have known about natural gas in the region for years, and wells have been drilled in any number of shale beds here in Chenango County. But, it’s only been a few years since new horizontal drilling technology has made extracting what’s being called the “super-giant” Marcellus gas field possible and cost effective.

Horizontal drilling technology was first used by natural gas exploration companies in 2001 in order to reach what was considered the rich Barnett Shale strata in Texas. About 3 million cubic feet of the energy source was found. That can be compared to the 7 million cubic feet discovered in the Marcellus bed in Western Pennsylvania more recently.

If the experts are correct, just tapping into 10 percent of what’s in the Marcellus Shale would be enough to power the entire country for about three years. And if the geological mapping and research available online are accurate, the Marcellus in eastern Chenango County has a huge store of some of the Appalachian regions’ cleanest, richest and purest natural gas.

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