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Kittanning companies take gas drilling in a different direction

| Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, 12:31 a.m.

Work is ramping up at an East Franklin site that is home to Snyder Brothers' and MDS Energy's first horizontal Marcellus shale well in Armstrong County.

A large rig has been set up and is expected to start drilling Saturday. Crews drilled vertical wells at the site earlier in the month.

The horizontal wells, while more costly to set up, produce significantly more gas, according to MDS spokesman Michael Knapp.

“Going from shallow wells to deep wells, our efforts have basically doubled in size,” he said. “For us, personally, we're going to have much greater potential.”

The site called the Ambrose pad — off Montgomery Road near Tarrtown — should be producing gas by next year. The companies will sell gas from the site to Dominion Gas — distributing it through a pipeline beneath the Allegheny River in Kittanning to Dayton, then on to a larger Dominion system in Harrisburg.

“It's a huge step forward,” Knapp said, adding that it's hard to pinpoint the number of jobs the operation will generate. “We definitely will be hiring additional people. We're going to be injecting money into the local economy.”

The Kittanning companies are expected to have job openings that will include truck drivers, safety personnel and entry-level general labor positions known as roustabouts.

“This is the very first horizontal well MDS and Snyder Brothers have drilled,” Knapp said. “To the best of my knowledge, we would be the first locally owned horizontals.”

Over the past few years, Snyder Brothers has drilled vertical Marcellus shale wells, with an eye toward adding horizontal wells, Snyder Brothers Vice President Dave O'Hara wrote in an email.

“That day has come, and Snyder Brothers is excited to be taking this step into the drilling and operation of our own horizontal Marcellus wells,” he said.

O'Hara said his company has plans for horizontal drilling at other Armstrong sites. The company is planning well pads in East Franklin, West Franklin and South Buffalo, he said.

“Armstrong County has not gotten the attention some of the other southern counties and northern tier counties have gotten, but we feel that is about to change,” he said.

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or jmartin@tribweb.com.

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