Quicksilver is here to stay
Natural gas consumption is on the rise, and Harrison County is helping to meet that demand.
‘Natural gas is going to be the fuel of choice for a long time,’ said Mark Whitley, vice president of operations for Quicksilver Resources. ‘About 85 percent of the natural gas used in the United States is produced in the U.S., with most of the remainder provided by Canada.’
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Quicksilver is the largest natural gas producer in Indiana, with more than 220 wells, most of which are in Harrison County.
Whitley and other Quicksilver representatives were in Corydon last month to speak at an informational meeting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County. The program was held in the Corydon Central High School auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 17.
‘The industry does have a little bit of mystery about it,’ said Darrell Voelker, executive director of the Chamber. ‘Hopefully, we can learn something tonight.’
Mike Nickolaus, director of oil and gas for the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, provided a brief history of Indiana oil and gas production, the history of the DNR division and the regulations surrounding the industry.
‘One reason we regulate is to help conserve natural resources and prevent waste,’ Nickolaus said.
Natural gas comes from underground reservoirs, ranging in depth from a few hundred to more than 25,000 feet. They were formed millions of years ago when plants and tiny sea animals were buried by sand and rock.
The DNR regulates activities such as permitting, drilling, operation and closure of wells, and spills, but the office does not govern lease terms, property rights issues, housekeeping (except for fire hazards), and the placement or removal of flowlines, power poles, transformers, buildings, vehicles or lease roads.
‘If we find something wrong, we can take appropriate action,’ Nickolaus said. That includes warnings of noncompliance, notices of violations, civic penalties ranging from $50 to $10,000, and permit revocations.
‘In Indiana, if you ever have your permit revoked, you can never get another permit … ‘ he said. ‘That doesn’t mean we can take away your other permits; you just can’t receive any new ones.’
According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, natural gas provides about 24 percent of the country’s energy, second only behind oil at 38 percent. Coal consumption comes in third at 23 percent, followed by nuclear at eight percent. Other sources combined provide seven percent.
Unlike some other energy sources, natural gas is ‘clean burning,’ Whitley said.
The finished product is used in the production of paper, food, glass, iron, steel, textiles, rubber and cement, and is a primary feedstock for chemicals, plastics and fertilizers, Quicksilver said.
More than 60 percent of U.S. households use natural gas. So do 70 percent of restaurants, 73 percent of lodging facilities, 59 percent of offices, 58 percent of retail buildings, and 51 percent of hospitals. It’s also used by 130,000 buses, taxis, trucks and other natural gas-powered vehicles.
Oil and gas production in Indiana dates to the 1880s.
‘Inadequate knowledge about drilling and production resulted in a permanent loss of more than 65 million barrels of oil … ‘ Nickolaus said.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy lists the top-five natural gas producing areas as: Texas (26 percent), the Gulf of Mexico (25 percent), New Mexico (eight percent), and Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wyoming (seven percent each).
National gas production in Indiana more than doubled last year, in large part due to Quicksilver’s operations in Harrison County.
More than 120,000 acres are covered by Quicksilver’s leases in the county, with 190-plus gas wells producing about 225,000 MCFs (1,000 cubic feet or 1,027 BTUs) of natural gas per month.
Voelker said Quicksilver has become ‘a big corporate business in the community in a fairly short period of time. They have invested millions of dollars in Harrison County,’ he said.
Quicksilver puts that figure at more than $40 million; last year the investment was $20 million.
More than 725 local landowners are royalty interest owners and share in the revenue from the Harrison County gas wells.
The Fort Worth firm also is one of the largest taxpayers in the county, paying more than $550,000 in local property taxes.
‘We’re going to be here for a long time,’ Whitley said. ‘We want to be here. We’re your neighbor.’
He said Quicksilver wants to be involved in programs ‘that affect people here on a daily basis.’ The company belongs to the Chamber of Commerce and purchases livestock at the annual Harrison County Fair.
Whitley encouraged anyone with a problem regarding Quicksilver to contact the company. The Corydon office number is 738-3338. The number for corporate headquarters is 1-817-665-5000.
‘We’re willing to sit down and work out an amiable agreement,’ he said.
Nickolaus issued a word of caution: ‘There’s a real tendency to want to go up and look at it,’ he said, but everyone should stay away from the equipment used in the production of natural gas.
The DNR’s gas and oil division can be contacted by phone (1-317-232-4058 for the Indianapolis Central Office and 1-812-853-8640 for the Evansville Field Office, which covers Harrison County), by e-mail ([email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]) or through its Web site (www.in.gov/dnroil).
Nickolaus suggested county residents become acquainted with Erika Phillips, the local inspector.
‘We have one inspector for this area, one pair of eyes,’ he said. ‘Looking around here tonight, I see about 400 pairs of eyes.’