Natural gas is found below the earth’s surface throughout the world and refers broadly to both methane and other hydrocarbon gas liquids. The same process that forms natural gas also form coal and petroleum and these resources are often found with each other. Natural gas today is primarily used as a source of energy, although ethane can be separated from the heat source methane to be made into plastic materials. Much of the recent discussion about natural gas development refers to “shale gas” which is found in the pores of sedimentary rock.
Shale gas has revolutionized the world’s energy supply. Technological developments have allowed for the extraction of hard-to-reach shale oil and gas through a process of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise referred to as unconventional oil and gas development. The U.S. has several major shale plays that contain a mix of shale gas and shale oil that have been the sites of earlier, conventional drilling, including several in the Great Plains (Eagle Ford, Barnett, Woodford, Granite, Granite Wash, Niobrara) as well as a collection of plays in the Midwest and Appalachian formation in the east (Marcellus, Utica, New Albany, Antrim). This rapid development has caused natural gas to outpace coal as the top source of energy generation in the U.S. and opens tremendous economic opportunities. In 2009, the U.S. surpassed Russia as the largest producer of natural gas in the world.
The Buckeye State sits on top of the Marcellus and Utica shale plays and has given the eastern portion of the state another valuable energy resource (gas, coal, and oil are found in similar places). For a full and detailed accounting of natural gas activity in Ohio, please visit Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ interactive mapping system here. (address)
The rapid development of the Marcellus Shale Play in Pennsylvania and New York has gained a lot of attention ranging from the environmental threats of “fracking” portrayed in the documentary Gasland to the incredible economic and industry opportunities of co-locating other industries alongside the extraction process (i.e. cracker plant). Others have documented about the tradeoffs of quality of life with economic opportunity including increased heavy traffic and demands on social services, landscape change, and difficulties for communities trying to plan for the “boom-busts” associated with energy extraction.
The presence of large amounts of natural gas has also spurred interest in other forms of economic development in the state. An ethane cracker plant has been proposed and if approved, could rejuvenate Ohio’s manufacturing industry by converting liquid natural gases into plastic pellets, which could be made into various products. Landowners stand to benefit from leases and royalty payments from energy producers from around the country. Restaurants and gas stations have also benefited from the increased traffic associated with extraction and construction activities, while hotels, rental houses, and campsites enjoy higher occupancy rates associated with Utica Shale development.
Additionally, the high amounts of natural gas found in the Appalachian Basin and in the Great Plains have provided development opportunities for port cities along the coast. The recent construction of several pipelines throughout the Buckeye State is designed to facilitate future extraction from the Utica Shale, which connects to other locations throughout the country. Several cities have proposed to put in place natural gas liquefication plants that process natural gas so it can be sold and shipped to other countries. (https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=25232)