Md. petroleum official talks about benefits of drilling Marcellus Shale in area
Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, speaks at Eggs & Issues breakfast Wednesday morning on the topic of drilling Marcellus Shale to harvest natural gas. (By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer / July 11, 2012)
Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, an organization that represents energy companies in the state and lobbies on local, state and federal issues, told about 40 people during a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast that Western Maryland has about 1 percent of the second largest Marcellus Shale deposit in the world.
He said the deposit also lies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and eastern Ohio.
“It’s right at our doorstep here in Maryland,” Cobbs said. “The odds to develop this are great.”
Cobbs said Marcellus Shale contains a high concentration of natural gas and rests about a mile beneath the earth’s surface.
Energy companies in other states have harvested natural gas from Marcellus Shale by drilling vertically into the earth, then changing the path of the drilling in a horizontal direction.
During the horizontal drilling, a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to break apart the shale that contains natural gas particles. Workers then use high pressure to pump in water, sand and a mixture of chemicals to separate the rock further so the natural gas can escape.
“The sand pulls the pores open, in essence, and that’s what releases the gas,” he said.
The process is highly controversial because many environmentalists believe, among other things, that the chemicals used in fracking contaminate the water supply.
Cobbs said that although almost half of the chemicals rise to the surface, the problem can be managed effectively.
“It can be properly done, but the question is having the state come in and manage it properly,” he said.
Cobbs said Maryland’s largest concentration of Marcellus Shale is in Allegany and Garrett counties. He said only a small portion is known to exist in parts of Washington County.
On June 6, 2011, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order to establish the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative.
The initiative was designed to help regulators and state policymakers determine if and how the drilling of Marcellus Shale can be accomplished without causing unacceptable risks to the environment.
The final report is due no later than Aug. 1, 2014.
Brigid Kenney, senior policy adviser for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said in a telephone interview Wednesday after Cobbs’ presentation that the MDE hasn’t taken a stance of Marcellus Shale drilling.
“We don’t have all the facts,” she said. “We’re still looking at the science.”