CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The New Albany Shale formation in southern Illinois could produce anywhere from a few thousand jobs to more than 40,000 jobs, but too little is known about the formation to be sure, according to a study paid for by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
The study, conducted by an Illinois State University economist, was released Thursday. The chamber said it hopes the work helps shape legislation that lawmakers currently are working on to regulate controversial drilling techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing. The study focused on shale gas production, not oil.
And the state Geological Survey's director said Thursday — even as petroleum industry land men scramble to find parcels of land to explore — there's at least some reason to think the shale formation might never be a major producer of shale gas.
The study by economist David Loomis acknowledges the unknowns about the formation and how productive it might be. But the exploration and, if it happens, subsequent production could generate anywhere from about 1,000 jobs and $1 billion for the state to more than 47,000 jobs and $9 billion.
"That high-end number seems quite reasonable to what other states have already experienced," he said, referring to shale formations in states such as Pennsylvania that are now producing high quantities of natural gas. "We feel like these are very conservative estimates of the impact that could come from shale gas."
Chamber member Tom Wolf said the business group hopes lawmakers consider those potential effects as they work on Senate Bill 3280. The legislation would set up regulations for hydraulic fracturing, which detractors call fracking, and other drilling techniques that would be used to explore the New Albany formation.
"The industry's at the table because they want a road map that helps them in the long term," Wolf said, adding that the oil and gas industry hopes to talk the state out of setting fees to mitigate wear and tear on roads and impacts on the environment before it knows what the formation might produce. "What I'm trying to avoid is impact fees and taxes based on the hope that this (drilling) will come about and that would scare people away."
Illinois Geological Survey Director Don McKay cautioned that the formation may never be capable of producing a boom, based on the work of the agency's recently retired expert on the subject, David Morse.