Natural Gas Is King in Pittsburgh – Deja vu All Over Again?

I was reading an article from the New York Times the other day, and the first line of the article was, “Natural gas is King in Pittsburgh.”

The article described how much natural gas development is under way in the region; that with respect to overall enterprise cost, “gas is far cheaper as fuel than coal,” especially for manufacturing; that it is reinvigorating the economy of Pittsburgh, and attracting capital to the region; and finally, that natural gas is a clean fuel.

The date of this article was October 18, 1885.

It sometimes gets lost in the ongoing hype about the Marcellus and Utica Shale that we have had a natural gas industry in this part of the world for over 125 years. It began as the unwanted stepchild of the oil industry, which traces its roots to Oil Creek, near Titusville, Pennsylvania, 100 miles north of Pittsburgh – where Colonel Edwin Drake concluded five months of drilling to a depth of 69-1/2 feet on Saturday, August 27, 1859 to complete the nation’s first oil well. For the next 40 years, wildcatters roamed the Pennsylvania and Ohio countryside looking for more oil; and when their efforts yielded gas instead of oil, it was often considered to be a nuisance. As historian Ruth Sheldon Knowles puts it, “With no market for natural gas, anyone unfortunate enough to find gas instead of oil simply let the well burn.”

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