Development of the nation’s shale natural gas plays may be a thankless job for producers today, but its value will pay off in the years to come, according to the CEO of Chief Oil & Gas LLC, who hopes to expand his company’s presence in the Marcellus and Utica shales.

“If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for someone to thank you for all that you’ve done to find and develop such a huge new supply of energy that all citizens in our country can use to reduce their cost of energy, enjoy a better standard of living and a way of life,” Trevor Rees-Jones told attendees of Hart Energy’s DUG East Conference in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

“And, if you’re like me, no one has come up to thank you yet. Well, I’m your man. I’m here to thank you on behalf of every citizen and consumer in the United States.”

A decade ago, he noted, the United States was faced with the real possibility of having to import liquefied natural gas (LNG), and construction of several import facilities was begun.

“The dialogue was focused on importing LNG, making us even more beholden to foreign countries,” Rees-Jones said. “Now with billions of dollars spent by the oil and gas industry — at risk — you have discovered more than 2,000 Tcf of natural gas right in the U.S., over a 100-year supply.”

The CEO conceded that the abundant supply of natural gas caused prices to fall to record lows, adding “some of you may prefer the word ‘collapse.’ [It’s] not so good for us producers, but the point is it’s good and very beneficial for the average American — the consumer. The cost of energy comes down for everyone and in many ways people don’t realize…not just fuel cost, but also the cost of food and many consumer goods that are made using natural gas. So there is a very direct and substantial benefit to the American consumer from this shale revolution.”

Rees-Jones also spent time lauding the environmental benefits of natural gas.

“It would wonderful if we could secure all, or even most, or even a good bit of, our energy needs from renewable sources such as wind or solar. But the fact of the matter is we can’t. And unless you want to turn in your car keys, turn off your heater in the winter and air conditioner in the summer, and turn off your lights at home and at work, every single person in the United States needs this resource base.

“I might mention at this point that this new supply of oil and gas will not be available without fracking [hydraulic fracturing]. In defense of the American public, who aren’t ready to thank you yet, there has been so much misinformation propagated by those with agendas antagonistic to the oil and gas business that people don’t know what to believe. But I have no doubt eventually the truth and the facts will prevail, and people will realize that they have been misled by those reportedly interested in protecting our environment.”

Chief currently holds 125,000 acres in northeastern Pennsylvania’s in Bradford, Susquehanna, northern Sullivan and northern Wyoming counties, “an area that if you have to be in dry gas, many believe is the best place in the country to be.” Rees-Jones added that Chief’s wells in the area were currently flowing at around 20 MMcf/d, with 3,100 pounds of pressure.

“Clearly, not all wells in northeast Pennsylvania produce as well,” he said, after pointing out that wells owned by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and Chesapeake Energy Corp. were faring batter. “There are areas that are better than others and there are areas that are poor. But this is an area that in the better areas will result in reserves in excess of 10 Bcf/well average, with some wells perhaps producing considerably more than this.

“Chief operates most of its acreage. We’re currently running two rigs and we would love to expand our position further in the Marcellus, whether in the dry gas area in northeast Pennsylvania or elsewhere in the Marcellus. Two of our goals are to increase our presence and position in the Marcellus and also to establish a position in the Utica.”

Rees-Jones also praised the oil and gas industry for creating 1.75 million jobs over the last several years. “It sounds to me like you are a hell of an economic stimulus plan,” he said. “We do work in the Marcellus that can’t be done by a guy on a telephone in India. You have to be here.”

Other benefits from shale development, according to the CEO, were the return of chemical manufacturing plants to the U.S., tens of thousands of landowners receiving bonus and royalty payments and billions in new tax revenue. He cited a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report from October that estimated shale development would contribute more than $2.5 trillion in government revenues by 2035, with more than half coming from state and local taxes, and $62 billion in 2012 alone (see Shale Daily, Oct. 25).

“I don’t know how much in taxes a windmill pays, but I know an oil and gas well pays a lot,” Rees-Jones said.

The CEO received a round of applause when he pointed out that shale development in the United States was also a national security interest.

“This is a matter of vital national concern that many people don’t fully realize or appreciate,” he said. “By hindering or attacking domestically produced energy and instead buying overseas — sometimes from countries unfriendly to us, or friendly with parties that are unfriendly to us — you are putting money in their pockets to foment activity that at minimum is not in our country’s best interest and at maximum results in terrorism being carried our against Americans abroad and at home.

“This doesn’t sound like work that deserves castigation and attack from the political leadership of our country.”

For the last three years, Chief has been selling its assets in the Marcellus. Penn Virginia Resource Partners LP bought Chief’s gathering system unit in April for $1 billion (see Shale Daily, April 11). Chevron Corp. and EXCO Resources Inc. bought acreage from Chief in 2011 and 2010, respectively (see Shale Daily, May 5, 2011; Dec. 23, 2010).