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Shale play focus for Rotary meeting

September 14, 2013
By MARK J. MILLER - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The impact of the emerging shale gas market was discussed during the Friday luncheon meeting of the Steubenville Rotary Club at the YWCA on North Fourth Street.

Joe Hamrock, a native of Mingo Junction and executive vice president and group chief executive officer for NiSource Gas Distribution, discussed how the Marcellus and Utica shale gas plays were having an impact on the industry, including across the local region.

Hamrock, who worked for America Electric Power for 26 years before moving to NiSource, said the company basically is the former Columbia Gas Co. The 1981 graduate of Catholic Central High School said part of the company's operations are in Ohio and Pennsylvania, "the heart of the shale belt. I'm here to talk about the benefits (of shale gas exploitation.)"

Article Photos

ENERGY TALK — Joe Hamrock, executive vice president and group chief executive officer for NiSource Gas Distribution, talked about the importance of shale gas exploration in the area and its impact on the gas market, during the Friday luncheon meeting of the Steubenville Rotary Club at the Steubenville YWCA. - Mark Miller

Hamrock said he'd heard some of the environmental challenges facing the emerging industry, "But I know through my years with AEP they are solvable. I'm very confident of that."

The exploration of the Marcellus and Utica shale will double in the next five to six years, Hamrock predicted, adding it still was a very young industry. He said the shale plays will help lead to energy independence for the country, and that "24 percent (of energy use) in the U.S. is natural gas, and it's growing."

Hamrock also said the United States has moved from being a gas importer - mainly from Canada - to being a natural gas exporter.

"There's a lot of investment - a huge amount - in unlocking the potential of shale gas," Hamrock said.

Other advantages shale gas exploration will bring include lower and more stable prices for natural gas consumers, even from a few years ago, he said. Energy generation using natural gas also is cheaper compared to nuclear and coal generation, he said, while also having the effect of emitting half the amount of greenhouse gases of coal. He added natural gas prices have dropped by 37 percent since 2007.

"There's obviously a jobs (element)," Hamrock continued, adding lots of secondary jobs tied to shale gas exploration are being created and more will be created.

"(The shale gas industry) is leaving a very big footprint," he explained.

He said the distribution system for natural gas is being expanded, because of the growing market for affordable and stable energy, which helps drive potential manufacturing growth.

Hamrock said the greatest manufacturing boom in the United States was when the country had cheap sources of energy, and shale gas could be a vehicle to drive the return of manufacturers to the Tri-State Area. Hamrock also said players in the shale market already had invested $2 billion for exploration and to expand the delivery infrastructure. The "shale revolution," as he called it, could be a key to unlocking future American competitiveness in world markets.

Hamrock added the Tri-State Area already had an infrastructure in place that could be attractive for future manufacturers and industry. He ended by thanking area residents for the opportunity to serve them.

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