There's "Gold" in Those Pennsylvania Hills

Pennsylvania is experiencing a "gold rush" unlike anything seen in the state perhaps since Edwin Drake struck black gold (oil) near Titusville in 1859. But instead of oil, it’s natural gas, contained in a geologic formation known as the Marcellus shale, which stretches across a large part of northern and western Pennsylvania and into neighboring states.
Shaded areas indicate Marcellus Shale

Shaded areas indicate Marcellus Shale

Research done by Penn State and others suggests that the Marcellus shale may contain more than 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, at least 10 percent of which -- up to $1 trillion worth -- could be recovered with new drilling technology. And that has gas companies, landowners, and rural communities scrambling to tap into the potential profits.

As gas companies flock into Pennsylvania to purchase lease agreements from landowners for the rights to explore and drill for gas on their property, the demand for unbiased information to make informed decisions is unprecedented.

Penn State Cooperative Extension has responded by providing gas leasing workshops in communities across the state to help landowners better understand the lease agreements and the market value of the leases, which allows them to negotiate more effectively with the gas-leasing companies. So far, more than 12,000 people have attended these workshops, after which they negotiated gas leases worth more than $100 million, collectively, above their initial offers. The implications continue to increase as over the past few months the average rate per acre for leases has gone from $300 per acre to approximately $2,500 per acre.

With this new-found wealth also come new-found challenges for Pennsylvania. And again, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences stands ready with research and extension programs to help address other emerging issues related to natural-gas exploration, including:

  • How communities can keep some of the windfall natural-gas revenues at home to create jobs and promote economic development
  • How potential environmental impacts can be minimized to protect water quality and quantity, soils, forestland, and other natural resources
  • How competing land uses can be reconciled to encourage sustainable growth and development
  • How gas exploration can affect local tax revenues, property values, and farmland preservation

Working with industry, government officials, and local leaders, Penn State is pulling together the best scientific information to educate the public and help the state prepare for this expected natural-gas boom.

With internationally respected researchers on its faculty and a cooperative extension presence in every county, Penn State is uniquely positioned to address Pennsylvania's priorities and provide science-based, practical solutions for the state's citizens, communities, and businesses.

For more information, contact Tom Murphy at or 570-433-3040 or visit Natural Gas website.