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Coal, Oil, And Gas Coordination In Pennsylvania

Kenneth S. Komoroski, Oil & Gas Agreements: Surface Use in the 21st Century (May 2017)

Pennsylvania has a storied history when it comes to coal, oil, and natural gas development. The Drake Well, drilled in 1859 in northwestern Pennsylvania was the first commercial oil well in the United States.1 In the decades that followed, in addition to its substantial oil production, Pennsylvania held the title as the nation's leading coal producer.2 And more recently, as a result of advancements in technologies used to develop shale formations, including use of horizontal drilling and innovative hydraulic fracturing techniques, Pennsylvania has become the second highest producer of natural gas in the United States.3 Pennsylvania's substantial fossil fuel production rates owe to the natural abundance of these resources. As demonstrated in the maps in Figures 1 through 3, coal, oil, and natural gas resources cover large areas of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with considerable overlap (this overlap is understandable/expected from a geologic perspective considering how the formations came to exist originally). Most coal development has taken place within several hundred feet of the surface (although coal seams actually run deeper). (See Figure 4) The depth of natural gas wells drilled into the Upper Devonian, Marcellus, and Utica shales, which vary depending on geographic location and formation, range from a few thousand feet to nearly 14,000 feet below the surface. (See Figure 5) And conventional oil and gas wells have been drilled into sandstones found 1,500 to 21,000 feet below the surface.4 With several stakeholders vying for these subsurface resources, coordination can be challenging. Coordination Coal, oil, and natural gas operators are of course interested in discrete geological strata. As the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ("Department") recently pointed out, "natural gas extraction is increasingly intersecting with longwall mining, particularly in southwestern Pennsylvania."5 The increase in activity has increased the need for coordination.