COLUMBUS: The Utica and Marcellus shales are poised to produce significant volumes of natural gas that can benefit utilities and manufacturers in the Midwest and the Northeast, according to a new report.
Bentek Energy, the Colorado-based energy market analytics company, says continued development of Utica and Marcellus natural gas and a rapidly growing infrastructure to transport the gas will result in “substantial opportunity” for natural gas users in Ohio, Pennsylvania and the Northeast United States, said spokesman Justin Carlson. He added that more than 16 billion cubic feet per day of pipeline capacity is under construction or planned in the two states.
The two shales are capable of producing enough natural gas to power electric-producing power plants now fueled with coal and other large customers, he told 250 people on Tuesday at the Think About Energy Summit sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a national trade group.
The Utica-Marcellus region is now the third-largest producer of natural gas in North America with 12.5 million cubic feet per day, behind only Texas and western Canada. It may soon surpass Canada and take over the No. 2 spot, he said.
The region produced 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas in mid-2005, he said.
Ohio and Pennsylvania will be producing more natural gas in the next few years, and that means gas will be available to utilities and manufacturers in the region and could also be exported, Carlson said.
Some utilities are switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.
Ohio has four new or proposed gas-fired plants and Pennsylvania has eight, alliance officials said.
In 2010, natural gas produced 5 percent of Ohio’s electricity. Today it’s up to 17 percent.
Natural gas now produces $16.2 billion for Ohio’s economy, the alliance says.
New demand for natural gas in Ohio is expected to grow nearly 400 million cubic feet per day in Ohio in the next 10 years. Peak demand is expected to grow by nearly 500 million cubic feet per day in Pennsylvania in that time. But production will dwarf those totals, Carlson said.
Current natural gas forecasts from the Utica and Marcellus may be too low and could turn out to be even higher, he said. There is a “significant potential” for even more natural gas being produced in eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said.
What’s been developed in the Utica and Marcellus shale, to date, is “the tip of iceberg,” said James Crews of MarkWest Energy Partners, a major pipeline and processing company.
He predicted that the two shales will still be producing for the “next 100 to 200 years.”
Other shales may also be tapped by drillers and that could add to what’s happening in Ohio and Pennsylvania, he said.
His company has invested $5 billion in the Utica and Marcellus shales. It has 16 projects completed and another 22 under construction.
Natural gas prices are likely to be stable for the next decade, said former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
He described natural gas as an ideal transition fuel until the United States can develop economical, renewable energy from the wind and sun.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking can be done safely, but Chu challenged the industry to do more to reduce air emissions, to recycle more fracking water and to eliminate well-construction problems.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.