Drillers in North America are producing natural gas cheaper, quicker, more efficiently, and at such large volumes that prices are expected to remain relatively low for years to come.
That means areas like Warren County that have technically-recoverable Utica shale gas at depths between 7,500 and 8,500 feet below the surface most likely won't see any activity until the United States becomes a net exporter of natural gas.
The U.S. Energy Information Agency predicts the U.S. will become a net exporter of natural gas sometime between 2018 and 2020 when there is more gas produced in North America than what is consumed.
Property owners in western Pennsylvania could still find themselves reading land leases in the near future.
Dan Brockett and Jon Laughner, Penn State Marcellus Education Team educators, discussed the development of natural gas including the geology, economic and social impacts in Warren County on Tuesday afternoon at Warren Public Library.
"If you asked me the question, do we have economical shale gas under our feet right here, the answer is probably yes. But is it our best prospect right now? Maybe not, so we're evaluating and industry is trying to target those sweet spots, those best places to drill," Brockett said.
The Utica shale is found below the Marcellus shale in western Pennsylvania, and Brockett said the development is still in the "baby stage".
It's there, it's economical, it just hasn't largely been tapped into.
There are currently only 12 permitted natural gas wells in Warren County and only five have been drilled or are in development.
Compare that to Bradford County in eastern Pennsylvania which has at least 1,400 wells drilled, the most in Pennsylvania.
"In this area we're probably looking at Utica gas being our primary target, there's also Marcellus, there's some Upper Devonian shale that shows some promise in there." said Brockett. "Several of you are saying, 'Hey, when are they going to start to drill and develop shale gas in Warren County?' Well, part of the answer is, well, as soon as somebody figures out what we're going to do with this excess gas we've produced. That's when, not just Warren County, but other places around the state and around the country will start to see maybe more development as soon as we crack that nut."
With relatively cheap natural gas, drillers are looking to offset cheap natural gas by producing wet gas from the Marcellus shale in southwestern Pennsylvania. Dry natural gas has typically been found in northeastern Pennsylvania; it contains methane and is free of liquid hydrocarbons.
Wet gas contains methane as well as propane, butane, pentane, hexane and heptane that have economic and commercial value, Brockett said.
Estimates from the industry are that northwestern Pennsylvania and most of Warren County have wet gas, he said.