Hopefully this will not be a case of be careful of what you wish for. Cabot has wished for permission to resume drilling and hydraulic fracturing in a 9-square mile area of Dimock Township, Pennsylvania.
Many local landowners who have lost income, because drilled wells have not been completed and new wells not drilled, also have supported Cabot's request to resume production activity. Gas drilling revenues for landowners in these times can create a better life or even allow families to keep land and farms.
After more than 29 months of a moratorium on both drilling more gas wells and hyrdaulic fracturing within a 9 mile area, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is partially granting Cabot's wish by permitting the company to hydraulic fracture and complete 7 already drilled wells. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/dep-allows-cabot-to-resume-fracking-in-dimock-leaves-drilling-on-hold-1.1361871.
Tellingly, DEP is not yet allowing Cabot to drill new gas wells in the area. The gas migration issue in Dimock was a result of gas well design and cementing mistakes and not the hydraulic fracturing process. No frack fluids or chemicals returned from depth, but thermogenic gas (not biogenic or naturally occurring) did migrate from some gas wells to 18 water wells.
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Eyes from around the world will be on Cabot and the Pennsylvania DEP as Cabot resumes fracking. The company must operate excellently.
2. DEP is moving in a measured way by first allowing only hydraulic fracturing, and not new drilling, and only after a substantial moratorium.
3. DEP's refusal to allow new gas wells to be drilled may reflect a desire to have a resumption of production activity done in steps and not more. Or it may mean that DEP remains unconvinced that methane levels have been fully abated in all 18 water wells and that drilling new gas wells in that location remains inappropriate. Time will tell.
Cabot's renewed production activity in Dimock will be intensely watched. Indeed, the only production activity that will be under a more stronger microscope than Cabot's in Dimock will be the first New York Marcellus wells that may actually be drilled in 2013. In both cases, the stakes are high for the gas industry, and operational excellence is an imperative.