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Fawn, Frazer poised for additional Marcellus gas drilling

Mary Ann Thomas
| Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012

With wells on the way and a pipeline coming, Fawn and Frazer are poised for more Marcellus shale well action.

Range Resources recently drilled five wells in Frazer while a company "landman" has been approaching Fawn residents with proposed oil and natural gas leases.

The two townships are attractive places to drill, according to Mike Mackin, a Canonsburg-based spokesman for drilling company Range Resources-Appalachia.

"They are on the outskirts of Allegheny County and are accessible with setbacks away from inhabited structures," he said. "It's more of a rural area than other parts of the county, which are highly populated."

And to move the gas to distribution lines, a Tulsa, Okla., company is working to secure rights of way in both townships for a "gathering pipeline" for Marcellus shale gas to go to an unspecified pipeline in Butler County.

Superior Appalachian Pipeline LLC, with an office in Canonsburg, is in the process of gathering government permits and rights of way from private property owners to lay the gas pipeline that will connect to a Dominion Transmission Inc. gas pipeline in Frazer. From there, it heads north into Butler County, according to Ken Magyar, vice president of project development for the company's Canonsburg office.


Frazer Supervisors recently approved a maintenance agreement with the pipeline company to cover road repairs beyond state bonding, which isn't always sufficient to cover repairs if pipeline trucks and other operations damage township roads, township Supervisor Lori Ziencik said.

The maintenance agreements cover Yutes Run, Clarks Pike, Fairfield, Kurn, Gillespie and Days Run roads.

Magyar declined to release details on the route and the number of wells that the proposed Superior pipeline would tap.

"We're just a little early," he said.

The line will not be dedicated to the wells of any one producer, according to Magyar.

"The idea is to gather gas from the wells that will be drilled," he said.

He said that "producers may not have their permits approved yet."

Magyar would not say how many Marcellus shale gas wells will be coming to the Fawn and Frazer area, but said, "We like the area, and we are glad to be there."

Magyar said that his company gathers its information about wells from traditional government sources and the gas producers.

He said that he hopes to secure the necessary permits for the proposed pipeline by early summer.

Mackin said that he couldn't confirm if his company Range Resources will use the proposed Superior Appalachian pipeline.

"The details are still being determined," he said. "We'll drill wells and partner with a 'midstream' company that will convey the gas to the interconnecting pipelines."

And there will be more gas for Range to move as five wells were drilled in Frazer in late 2011 into early this year.

The wells are at the same site along Yutes Run Road where Range flared its first Marcellus well last year, which attracted interest from Route 28 motorists wowing over the large flame visible on a bluff just above the Pittsburgh Mills mall.

Within the next months, a hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- crew will complete the wells, which are expected to go on-line soon after that, according to Mackin.


Fawn Township's supervisors are going forward with a hearing on an ordinance governing Marcellus shale drilling on Tuesday even though the state Legislature has passed a statewide law governing the industry.

The supervisors are expected to vote on the ordinance during their regular meeting, which follows the hearing.

There's been Marcellus shale buzz in the township as a landman representing Range Resources has been approaching residents with gas leases offering 16 percent royalties on production of proposed wells.

Range is exploring lease opportunities in the township, Mackin said.

According to Fawn Township Supervisors Chairman David Montanari, more Marcellus shale gas wells are expected in the township.

"We want to put an ordinance in place that permits the township to make conditional uses for all of these well sites," Montanari said.

If passed, the ordinance would require gas companies to win approval for their proposed well from the township zoning board and supervisors.

The ordinance protects township roads with an extra agreement to pay for repairs beyond bonding required by the state and regulates noise and emergency services at the sites, according to Fawn Solicitor Steve Yakopec.

The ordinance limits wells to area of the mostly rural township to area zoned R-2 and industrial.

But with the state law regulating the Marcellus shale gas drilling industry, gas companies will be able to drill wherever they want, restricted by only property setbacks.

Gov. Tom Corbett is soon expected to sign the legislation into law.

Although the pending state law will supersede municipal ordinances, Fawn supervisors are still proceeding with the hearing and voting on an ordinance.

"It's worth it to have in place," Yakopec said. "It protects the township and is a stop-gap measure until the state law takes effect 60 days after the governor signs it," he said.

"But what we will lose," said Yakopec, "is that they can drill wells in any zoning district as long as they meet the setback requirements, which are roughly a football field-and-a-half."

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