The Marcellus Shale is a black, low density, organic rich shale that lies beneath all of Garrett County and the westernmost portion of Allegany County in Maryland as well as much of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York. It is projected that nearly 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could be produced from the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus Shale was not widely considered to be an important gas resource until technology for tapping it had been proven in other natural gas shale plays.
The drilling of natural gas wells into the Marcellus Shale is a highly technical process. Capturing the gas that is locked away in the shale requires drilling companies to use processes such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
The drilling process begins with pad site construction, which typically lasts approximately one to four weeks, depending on the location. Next, the set up of the rig and the drilling of the well will take approximately three to four weeks per well. During this time, operations usually run continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Multiple wells are sometimes drilled from a single padsite. Although the rig is the most visible part of drilling operations, it is temporary and will be removed once drilling is completed. Once the layer of rock that holds the natural gas is reached, the well will be completed and prepped for production.
As with any construction site, there will be additional truck traffic for the setting up and taking down of the equipment. There can be noise, dust and traffic. After the wells are completed, the company regularly returns to monitor and maintain the site. At some well sites, trucks may return to remove water produced by the gas well, which is separated from natural gas during the gathering process and stored in tanks located on the site. A typical drilling pad site is three to five acres in size.
Though no drilling in the Marcellus Shale geologic layer has started in Garrett County, the industry is interested. Garrett County is presenting information throughout these web pages to help residents, visitors, and businesses understand the development of the industry and how it may affect our county and state for years to come. Visit our Current Activity page to keep up to date on the latest activity.