Driving down state Route 7 between East Liverpool and Steubenville last week, I kept noticing them. They came one after another, sometimes two or three at a time. They were trucks hauling water, and I would later find out they were involved with the Marcellus Shale drilling activities in the Steubenville area.
I was on my way to a meeting in Steubenville. The topic: Shale Play. A group of editors met at the Tribune's sister paper, the Herald-Star, to discuss this relatively new publication that we put together and distribute the second and fourth Thursday of every month. It was a group of almost a dozen editors and business writers.
Shale Play is distributed at 70-some locations in Trumbull and Mahoning counties. It also is distributed in Columbiana County and all along the Ohio River. And it is free. The Tribune has sister papers all over the Marcellus Shale drilling area, and if there is a developing story about shale drilling, it can quickly be covered. All the reporters and editors are right there, and right here.
The editors I met with were from the Columbiana County newspapers (there are three dailies in that county) as well as editors from Steubenville, Wheeling, W.Va., and Martins Ferry. The newspaper group is uniquely positioned to provide blanket coverage of shale developments, from hydraulic fracturing to brine injection wells, from gas pipelines to downstream production issues.
We had our meeting and discussed all the pertinent issues and topics and planned out the upcoming publications. We had the meeting in a conference room while eating lunch, and then I saw it. It was on the white board hanging on the wall, and it summed up - at least in my opinion - what shale developments are going to mean in the future.
Someone had drawn a drilling rig. Near the top of the rig were the words ''Shale Play.'' At the bottom of the rig were the words ''Welcome to our rig!'' Dollar bills were spewing out of the top of the rig. It was an impressive display that pretty much summed things up.
Some interesting statistics were reported in an Associated Press article recently about the Marcellus Shale field. It said, "The Marcellus Shale is about to become the most productive natural gas field in the United States, according to new data from energy industry analysts and the federal government. Though serious drilling only began five years ago, the sheer volume of Marcellus production suggests that in some ways there's no going back."
And the article went on to say: ''In 2008, Marcellus production barely registered on national energy reports. In July, the combined output from Pennsylvania and West Virginia wells was about 7.4 billion cubic feet per day, according to Kyle Martinez, an analyst at Bentek Energy. That's more than double the 3.6 billion cubic feet from last April, and represents over 25 percent of national shale gas production.''
Those are some eye-opening statements. It is kind of hard to grasp, I think, what shale drilling is going to mean to this area. It could be huge.
That's why we are publishing Shale Play. With all the reporters available, the resources that can be tapped and an experienced and knowledgeable staff, if it happens in shale country, you can bet it will be well covered in your local newspaper as well as in Shale Play.
Robinson is editor of the Tribune Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.