Penn State extension educator, Dave Messersmith came to Brooklyn Township and spoke about European shale gas development, it’s complications, and how the continent’s governments are working to develop their shale resources. He also discussed shale development in Pennsylvania and exactly what it’s meant for the agriculture industry.
Dave Messersmith recently visited Northeastern Pennsylvania to speak to a Brooklyn Township landowners group. Messersmith is an extension educator at Penn State and his job focuses on natural gas development in Pennsylvania as well as throughout the Marcellus Shale play. Messersmith recently returned from a trip to Europe where he presented on shale gas development in the United States and how similar benefits can be accrued to European nations that embrace natural gas development.
European Shale Development
While in Europe, Messersmith spent a majority of his time in Poland, educating citizens there on shale gas development that has occurred in the United States. He also noted (see video below) the difference in how mineral rights are handled in the U.S. as opposed to overseas.
Here in the United States you as landowners own the mineral rights under your property. You have the ability to develop your resources and gain financially from the development. Something many people don’t know is that this is strictly an American phenomenon. Every other country that I am aware of, the state or government owns the mineral rights to your land. (22:05)
It’s important to understand and appreciate the opportunity we have here in America to develop our resources, understanding that landowners in other countries don’t have a say in the development of their resources and don’t benefit as directly as we do. This is something we should not take for granted.
As European countries look to start developing this resource they are learning the challenges in developing infrastructure and a critical mass of support businesses. In the United States we have ancillary businesses that have already developed in support of the industry (e.g., water hauling, completion operations, etc.). European countries like Poland lack this type of infrastructure.
One of the major complications, again, is how to compensate the landowner when they don’t own the rights to their minerals, but have development on their land. This makes our system much more workable in many respects.
The last issue faced by these countries is the geology of the shale. Here, Marcellus Shale operators have vastly increased their expertise in developing shale wells every year, dramatically reducing time and costs involved, which in turn has yielded ever larger amounts of gas. According to Messersmith some of the initial wells in European countries have not mimicked the production seen here in the United States.
Back to Pennsylvania Shale Development
Switching gears, Messersmith talked about the ongoing shale development here in Pennsylvania and what it’s meant for landowners and agriculture.
According to Messersmith, counties such as Bradford and Susquehanna that have seen a lot of shale gas development are also counties that have a lot agriculture.
He recently started pulling data to look and see if there was a trend in the number of dairy cows present in Marcellus counties versus what’s was happening statewide.
The thing that we’re seeing statewide between 2001 – 2007 is that the number of dairy cows decreased by 9.8%. Marcellus counties saw a decrease of about 24.3%. Looking at the data there was a much steeper decline pre-Marcellus development. Since 2008, when Marcellus development picked up, the number of dairy cows statewide saw a decrease of 2.2% while Marcellus counties only saw a decline of 1.4%. (48:28)
Messersmith stated the data suggests some of the Marcellus money in the form of royalty checks is helping to sustain some of the dairy cows on farms.
Following the presentation Messersmith took questions from the audience regarding various topics about shale gas development in Northeastern Pennsylvania. See the full Q-A session below.
Messersmith’s presentation was much appreciated by Brooklyn landowners and it helped to counter inaccurate information put out by others who have suggested farming had been negatively impacted by natural gas development.