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Marcellus shale conference in Pittsburgh will review status, future of natural gas

Stephen Huba
| Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, 4:06 p.m.

The seventh annual Shale Insight Conference opens Wednesday in Pittsburgh at a time of increasing attention on Pennsylvania's role in the Marcellus shale natural gas boom.

“Over the past decade, development of the Marcellus shale formation has catapulted Pennsylvania to become the second-largest producer of natural gas in the United States, trailing only Texas,” researcher Daniel Raimi said in an August blog post for the think tank Resources for the Future.

“Driven by the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, Appalachia will easily be the largest supplier of new natural gas in the U.S.,” Jude Clemente wrote for Forbes in June. “In fact, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio are the basis of the 700 trillion cubic feet of gas that our nation can produce when prices are $3 per MMBtu (million British thermal units) or less.”

Industry leaders will converge on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, downtown, for the two-day conference to assess the status and future of natural gas in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The conference comes nine months into a Trump administration that many in the industry see as more friendly to their cause. President Trump approved the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines early in his term.

Two pipelines — the Mariner East 2 and the Atlantic Sunrise — are being constructed in Pennsylvania to help bring Marcellus natural gas to domestic and international markets.

U.S. Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette will be among the first to address the conference Wednesday morning.

Mini keynote addresses are expected from Chevron Appalachia President Stacey Olson and Peoples Natural Gas President Morgan O'Brien.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer will be the closing keynote speaker at the Thursday luncheon. His talk is titled “Making America Energy Independent.”

Marcellus Shale Coalition spokeswoman Erica Wright said Spicer was a natural fit, in the wake of candidate Trump's speech to the conference in 2016.

“Moving forward, this year there's been a lot of conversation on energy dominance and how America's becoming more energy independent,” Wright said. “This is something that (Spicer) has been in the forefront of managing in his former position.”

Spicer left the White House in July and signed on with Worldwide Speakers Group, making a televised appearance at the Emmy Awards on Sept. 17.

“Sean's level of experience and insight into the current landscape in Washington is second to none, and we're grateful to have him give what will be one of his first major speaking engagements since leaving government,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer.

The conference will feature panel discussions on, among other topics, pipeline security, petrochemical processing, environmental and health concerns, and water and waste management.

Conference sponsors are the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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