University of Pittsburgh
August 16, 2010

Pitt Database of Oil and Gas Leases Gauges Marcellus Shale Activity in Allegheny County Since 2003, Shows Leases Up 322 Percent in 2009

Researchers in Pitt’s Center for Social and Urban Research created an interactive map of the land under an oil and gas lease, determined the companies holding the most leases and acreage, and found that 7 percent of Allegheny County’s land has been leased for exploration since 2003

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PITTSBURGH—As Marcellus Shale activity sweeps Western Pennsylvania, a new University of Pittsburgh database reveals that approximately 7 percent of Allegheny County’s land has been leased for drilling and extraction since 2003. In addition, the number of properties in the county leased for oil and gas exploration increased by 322 percent between 2008 and 2009.

Researchers in Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) used leases filed with the Allegheny County Department of Real Estate to create an interactive map of the more than 2,000 parcels in Allegheny County leased for oil and gas exploration between 2003 and May 2010. The map also indicates the people or companies that bought the leases. The map is available on UCSUR’s Web site through the Pittsburgh Urban Blog, or the PUB, a new service established by UCSUR to make research on regional statistics and trends readily available. It was created by the Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System (PNCIS), Pitt’s online database of statistical maps.

Sabina Deitrick, codirector of UCSUR’s urban analysis program, said the oil and gas leases reveal a rapidly expanding pursuit of drilling and exploration rights in the county. New oil and gas leases taken out by parcel increased steadily from 30 in 2003 to 273 in 2008. In 2009, the number of leases rocketed to 1,153, one-and-a-half times more than the previous six years combined. The number of leases filed by May 2010 was 475, on pace with last year. Figures showing the increase in filed leases since 2003 as well as the leading companies in terms of leases and acreage held are below.

Oil and Gas-Related Leasing Activity by Parcel in Allegheny County, 2003-2010*

Lease Type 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010* Total parcels
*Through May 2010
1Provides the right to extract oil and gas from a property. Lease terms can include provisions for drilling activity, pooling of adjacent parcels, exploration, road construction, pipelines, the use of non-domestic water sources, and storage of oil and gas.
Oil and Gas1 30 66 141 92 141 273 1,153 475 2,371

Only a few companies dominate in terms of number of leases held and the amount of acreage claimed. For instance, the company Dale Property Services/DPS Penn holds a lease on 1,654 parcels in the county, nearly half of all properties leased for oil and gas since 2003; the company, an affiliate of the Dale family companies of Dallas, is a leasing agent whose Web site cites a “strategic alliance” with Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy. At the same time, Monroeville-based Huntley and Huntley Inc. can claim the most land area under lease with 10,990 of the 35,393 acres leased in the county since 2003.

Top Companies By Lease and Acreage Held

By Number of Leases Held By Acreage Held
1 Leasing agent allied with Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City.
Affiliated with the Dale family companies of Dallas.
3 Purchased in 2004 by Range Resources of Fort Worth.
Source: Compiled by UCSUR from Allegheny County Department of Real Estate.
Dale Property Services/DPS Penn1, 2 1,654 Huntley & Huntley Inc. 10,990
Huntley & Huntley Inc. 798 Dale Property Services/DPS Penn 7,646
Sylvan Energy 270 Great Lakes Energy Partners 3,175
Everest Exploration Co. 184 Everest Exploration Co. 3,175
Kriebel Resources Co. 135 Kriebel Resources Co. 2,997
Principal Energy Resources 105 Range Resources 2,527
Range Resources 88 BLX Inc. 1,723
Penneco 83 Patriot Exploration 917
Great Lakes Energy Partners3 80 Principal Energy Resources 675
BLX Inc. 63 Dorso 661
Other (45 companies and individuals) 288 Other 907
TOTAL 3,748 TOTAL 35,393

Bob Gradeck, research project manager for PNCIS, said that as companies lease such parcels as cemeteries—Calvary Cemetery in Hazelwood and St. Mary’s in Lawrenceville are both held by Huntley and Huntley—municipalities should consider how to manage the infrastructure a drilling operation needs. Those considerations include approximately 5 acres of land for a drill pad and refuse pond, emergency response management, road capacity to accommodate heavy trucks, water use and treatment, and the effect of pumping water into the ground—a process called hydrofracking—to extract the natural gas.

“These operations are not just someone drilling a hole. When the scale of this activity is considered, it becomes clear that at the local level there needs to be effective planning,” Gradeck said. “There’s not a lot of history or experience with planning in many of the municipalities where the industry is operating, but these operations are here and people need to be ready.”

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