The pace and extent of development in the Pennsylvania portion of the Marcellus Shale now may be "seen" in animated maps produced by the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, officials said Tuesday.

Using data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the animations show both the number of drilling permits issued for the shale play and the number of wells drilled by year from 2007 through August. Permits were issued to drillers before 2007, but the information on those permits did not include latitude and longitude.

"These animations give people a chance to see how the pace of Marcellus development has accelerated," said Tom Murphy, co-director of the Marcellus Center. "When you look at these animations, you are able to trace where development is occurring and get a sense of the rate at which it is occurring."

The two animations also allow the number of permits issued and the actual number of wells drilled to be compared.

According to center officials, interest in the Marcellus "has skyrocketed" with just 99 drilling permits issued in 2007 compared with 2,108 in the first eight months of this year. A similar surge in the numbers of wells drilled is also was noted. Since January 950 wells have been drilled, while in 2007 -- the entire year -- only 43 wells were drilled.

"We expect that the uptick in Marcellus well drilling activity will continue, given the high production rates being seen in the wells and the relatively low cost to develop this gas resource," said Michael Arthur, who also co-directs the center. "Even with the low natural gas commodity pricing, drilling in the Marcellus can still be profitable for efficient companies."

The DEP updates its permit and well reports weekly. The department also publishes a separate spreadsheet that identifies Marcellus permits and whether they are for horizontal or vertical wells.

The Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research ( is supported by Penn State Outreach, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Earth and Mineral Sciences.