The Charleston Gazette blogs recently featured this link: The industrialization of rural West Virginia caused by the Marcellus Shale gas play. It's well worth a look. There's been some speculation on mineral rights in Pocahontas County recently, and this slideshow has some practical information on what hydrofracturing the Marcellus shale looks like from the surface.
A few years ago, Marcellus Shale gas was unrecoverable, and West Virginia was a relative backwater in the oil and gas industry. The new techniques of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have made a sea change in all of that. The Marcellus Shale is now the second largest field of gas -- in the WORLD. It is twice the size of the gas fields in Saudi Arabia. Major oil companies like Exxon are buying up gas resources here. Conventional shallow wells that cost $300,000.00 to drill have given way to 6 to 8 horizontal wells drilled from one well site. And each horizontal well costs $3 Million or more to drill. This drilling causes an exponential increase in surface disturbance, water use and waste disposal. It also requires compressor stations and staging areas and greatly increases demands on roads and other infrastructure.
The slideshow is on the WV Surface Owners' Rights Organization (WV SORO) Website. They introduce their resources with this:
West Virginia is second only to Texas in the number of active oil and gas wells in the country. New drilling permits have more than tripled in recent years and West Virginia surface owners have very few rights to protect them from drillers unless they also own the minerals beneath their land. If you live in one of the state's oil and gas producing counties you know about the polluted streams, needless destruction of timber, lost home sites, careless road building and ruined pastures caused by drillers.