Marcellus Shale drilling has had a significant impact on Pennsylvania's economy, but with the price of natural gas dropping to $2 per thousand cubic feet, drilling may slow down.
"Companies may delay production because of the price they are getting," said Jim Rose, director of drilling engineering at EQT Production, Pittsburgh. "I am concerned the activity will dry up, then the supply will drop below demand and then price will go back up eventually."
Rose was the keynote speaker Friday at a Marcellus Shale workshop presented by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Safety Committee at the Ramada Altoona Conference Center.
Meanwhile, Tipton-based New Pig Corp., which has developed about 36 products specific to the Marcellus Shale industry, is not concerned. Among New Pig's products are the PIG Well Liner Pad, which contains liquid on well sites.
"We are replacing a lot of the existing liners. We are moving into Ohio as well," said Heidi Shetler, director of new business development for New Pig's Marcellus Shale division.
Marcellus Shale has had a big impact on New Pig's business.
"What it has done is open up a whole new market for us and our materials. We are known for spill responses. It was pretty natural for us to get into the market. We are learning as we go," Shetler said. "We are a real live example of a business locally who is benefiting from Marcellus Shale."
Gas and oil field safety has improved greatly over the years, Rose said.
"A site is not easy to make safe because there is a lot of large equipment moving around. We are one of the safest industries in the world, but it was not always that way," Rose said. "We went from one of the industries that hurt a lot of people to one that hurts very few people."
Training has been important.
"The No. 1 contributing factor to improved safety has been training. Awareness and hazard recognition are the most important trainings. We exceed the guidelines, our standards for safety far exceed those of OSHA," Rose said. "All of our guys wear hard hats, glasses and steel-toed shoes. You don't have to remind people. It is a requirement of employment. Personal protective equipment is worn at all times."
Stephen Brokenshire, mineral resources program specialist for the state Department of Environmental Protection, also said safety is very important.
"Safety is always first. These are industrial sites. These are not places to do investigative reporting. They are dangerous areas," Brokenshire said.