The price of oil is back up and fairly steady – over US $78 on Tuesday, October 20 – and the price of gas, which has been lagging, has reached a spot price of $4.60/mmBTU. Maybe, at long last, things are starting to look up for gas drillers. A number of indicators point in that direction, with one of the most impressive coming from Hart’s Drilling Unconventional Gas East Conference, which took place in Pittsburgh, PA, on October 19. The conference drew nearly 50 exhibitors and 1,400 attendees, numbers that indicate interest in the Marcellus Shale (the focus area of the conference) is enormous. Operating companies among the speakers at the event couldn’t seem to say enough good things about this play. Jeff Ventura, president, COO and director or Range Resources Corp., said, “The Marcellus has the best economics of any large-scale repeatable play out there,” noting that the company anticipates 180 MMcf/d to 200 MMcf/d production by the end of next year. More and more operators are entering the region, Ventura said, which has increased competition and driven down costs. One of those competitors, EQT corp. is investing heavily in the region, where it owns 3.4 million acres. According to Murry Gerber, EQT chairman and CEO, with finding and developing costs at around one dollar per mmBTU in the Marcellus, it is a solid investment for the company. Gerber discussed gas in a broader application when he pointed to natural gas as one of the biggest potential contributors to US energy security, explaining that the country has a 116-year supply. Though incorporating gas into the energy security scenario is a long-term goal, the present positive impact of gas production in the Marcellus is immediate. According to a study carried out at the Pennsylvania State University, the Marcellus is responsible for creating 50,000 jobs in Pennsylvania this year and will likely more than double that number in 2010. Marcellus activity totaled $3.8 billion in the state this year and is projected to reach $83 billion by the end of next year. This level of activity is exactly what the industry needs. If we can get this kind of momentum behind some of the other shale gas plays, we will considerably improve both the short-term and long-term health of the country’s domestic gas industry.