It may be too early to compare it to Houston, but little Canonsburg, PA -- until recently known more for its annual Fourth of July parade than its business district -- has over the past two years become the home to some of the Marcellus Shale's biggest operators.

The borough, located 18 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in Washington County, about half an hour from Pittsburgh International Airport, has a population of less than 9,000 but houses the Marcellus offices of Range Resources Corp., Consol Energy, Chesapeake Energy, EQT Production Co., Markwest Liberty Midstream & Resources and others.

Washington County Energy Partners, a consortium of business leaders and public officials, has dubbed the county "the energy capital of the East." That would apparently put the Pennsylvania county in competition with the state of Virginia, whose Gov. Bob McDonnell, has said his state is on the road to become "the energy capital of the East Coast" (see Daily GPI, Oct. 15, 2010). It's not exactly clear what resource base McDonnell is referring to, but Canonsburg's qualifications are evident.

The borough is close to the Pittsburgh manufacturing metropolis, and it's in the middle of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Marcellus fairway which runs south across the state line deep into West Virginia. To the west is potential shale development in Ohio.

The surrounding county is a hotbed for gas exploration and production. As Range Resources' core area -- the company has 388 permits, or 77% of the permits issued and 95% of the production in the county between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010 -- and it's where the most Marcellus Shale wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania, according to the company.

Behind Range, Atlas Resources holds 48 permits in the county, while Chesapeake holds 33, Antero Resources has 9 and Rice Drilling B LLC and EQT Production each hold 7.

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