According to a cache of nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by the Department of Environmental Protection, which were uncovered by the Scranton Times-Tribune’s Sunday Times, the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses were damaged by oil and gas development between 2008 and the fall of 2012.
From the paper's Laura Legere: “Inspectors declared the vast majority of complaints -- 77 percent of 969 records -- unfounded, lacking enough evidence to tie them definitively to drilling or caused by a different source than oil and gas exploration, like legacy pollution, natural conditions or mining." The story comes after months of recent reports on water contamination fears.
Chesapeake Energy has tapped an executive with experience in the Marcellus Shale region as its new chief executive officer.
Robert Douglas Lawler, a petroleum engineer who was most recently an executive at Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum, will lead the Oklahoma City company starting June 17.
Mr. Lawler, 46, inherits a company with significant holdings in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, but one that has been troubled by shareholder disapproval over how it has handled those assets.
Mr. Lawler most recently served as the senior vice president in charge of Anadarko's international and deepwater operations, and before that headed up the firm's work in Appalachia.
As the vice president of operations for Anadarko's southern and Appalachian region from March 2009 to July 2012, he led the development of company holdings in the Marcellus Shale and three other domestic fields.
Anadarko was one of the earliest drillers in the Marcellus formation, concentrating its activity since 2006 in Pennsylvania's gas-rich northeast corner.
Chesapeake leases significant acreage in the southwestern section of the state. It remains the top driller in Ohio's Utica Shale, though it put more than 94,000 acres there up for sale in April. The company has been divesting of hundreds of thousands of acres in recent months as it tries to raise cash following a shareholder revolt in 2012.
Stock prices fell after a controversial loan program involving Chesapeake co-founder and former CEO Aubrey McClendon raised questions about how the firm was raising money. Mr. McClendon stepped down as CEO and left the board in April after an internal review of his conduct found nothing improper.
Mr. Lawler also will take a place on Chesapeake's board, but he will not be chairman like Mr. McClendon was for much of his tenure.
Chesapeake shares closed at $20.80 on Tuesday, up 53 cents.
LONDON -- In a sign that the United States shale gas boom is making global waves, two Japanese conglomerates and a big French energy player signed agreements Friday to invest as much as $7 billion in a liquefied natural gas project in Louisiana.
The companies -- Mitsui and Mitsubishi of Japan and GDF Suez of France -- each plan to take a 16.6 percent stake in the gas export plant being developed at Hackberry, La. The complex is being built by Sempra Energy, a San Diego-based company with annual revenue of about $10 billion. The companies agreed last year to help develop the project.
GDF Suez predicts that the plant will begin operations in 2017. It said the companies' final decision to make their investment will depend on the project's receiving necessary permits.
International companies -- responding to a ravenous global appetite for natural gas, particularly in Japan and Europe --want access to shale gas from the United States, which has emerged as an important new source over the past few years. But because the United States has only recently shifted from being a gas importer to being self-sufficient in the fuel, the government has not yet agreed to allow exports, except in a few cases and to the 20 nations with which it has free-trade agreements, including Panama and Costa Rica.
Export approval, under Energy Department consideration for several projects, will be necessary before the potential of shale gas can be realized fully. On Friday, the department approved a Texas project called Freeport LNG. It has also signed off on a facility being built by Cheniere Energy at Sabine Pass in Louisiana that is expected to start exporting in 2015.
But international companies are investing all the same, betting that U.S. shale gas will eventually be able to go onto the global market.
In a statement, Sempra Energy estimated that the foreign partners would be putting up $6 billion to $7 billion, in return for just under half the equity in the project, which is forecast to yield 12 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas annually for 20 years. In return, they will receive all the gas. Sempra will retain a stake of just more than 50 percent.
"These agreements represent a major step forward in the development of our LNG export project," Sempra's president, Mark A. Snell, said in a statement.
For international players, the attractions of U.S. shale gas are the large potential volumes and the relatively low cost of extracting it. Other foreign companies that have lined up U.S. supplies include the Korean company Kogas, Sumitomo of Japan and BG Group, the British-based company that is a big player in the liquefied natural gas business.
Natural gas prices in the United States are now about $4 per million British thermal units, the industry's standard measure. European-traded prices are in the $10 per million BTUs range, with Asian prices about $15 per million per BTUs. Long-term contract prices are often higher, and liquefication adds to the cost over plain gas.
Japan's liquefied natural gas imports have surged after the nuclear power shutdown in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and were up by 11 percent last year. Japanese imports account for about one-third of the world's total liquid gas market, according to a recent study by Bernstein research. Japanese utility executives have said they want to reduce the prices they are paying by tying them to U.S. supplies.
"It is a win-win situation," said Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer in New York. Such deals will help stabilize global fuel prices over the long term and benefit the U.S. economy, he said.
A big worry in the industry is whether U.S. exports could contribute to lower prices around the world, eroding profits. "It will give buyers a choice, something they have never had before," said Jonathan Stern, gas program chairman at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.
But industry executives think that surging demand, especially from Asia, will easily absorb the exports the U.S. government might eventually permit. U.S. gas "won't have a material effect on long-term pricing," Martin Houston, BG's chief operating officer, said in a recent presentation on the company's website.