Range Resources breaks ground in Cecil Twp.

Posted December 9, 2010

By Michael Bradwell

As an independent natural gas exploration company with a number of wells drilled in the area, Range Resources could have used some of its product Wednesday when it officially broke ground for its new Appalachian Shale regional headquarters in Southpointe II.

With temperatures in the low 20s and a wind chill making it feel even colder, officials of Southpointe-based Horizon Properties, which designed the project for Range, kept ceremonies short at the construction site.

The new building, which will be one of the largest recent office projects in Southwestern Pennsylvania, is a five-story, 180,000 square-foot property on a 13-acre site between the USG Insurance Building and the Fairmont Supply headquarters.

The office project, which was announced by Range this fall, will help the company consolidate its local operations, which are currently conducted in two buildings in Southpointe. The company, which is the largest among several working in the Marcellus Shale in Southwestern Pennsylvania, has expanded rapidly over the past few years.

Ray Walker, senior vice president for Range's Appalachian Shale operations, told the group he was initially dispatched to Washington County from Range's Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters in 2006. At that time, Walker said he was asked to start a small office and hire eight to 10 people to help him explore the potential of finding natural gas in shale far below the surface of property near Hickory.

"I actually thought I was in danger of getting fired for leasing 1,500 square feet of office space," Walker joked as he noted how quickly his company was able to locate and develop shale gas reserves here.

Today, Range holds 1.2 million net acres in the Marcellus Shale fairway, has drilled 269 wells in the past two years and is currently producing more than 35 billion cubic feet of gas from 165 wells.

The regional headquarters project, which is being constructed by P.J. Dick Corp., will include a 225-seat auditorium, a bistro and will provide office space for nearly 500 of the company's Pennsylvania employees. Walker said a proposed second phase would add another 75,000 square feet of space.

"We sincerely think there will be 1,000 Range employees in Pennsylvania within the next few years," he said.

Expected completion of the first phase is November 2011.

During a luncheon at Southpointe Golf Club that followed the ceremonies, Walker said he expects about 325 employees to be working in the new headquarters when it opens a year from now.

As natural gas drilling from Range and its competitors ramped up in the area, a number of public officials, including all three county commissioners and local state legislators, joined with local businesses, banks and gas companies in the spring to form Washington County Energy Partners to promote the county as a major energy center.

On Wednesday, the officials congratulated Walker and Range on the new project and for the company's economic impact on the area.

"There's no question that after today, Washington County is the Energy Capital of the East," said state Rep. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg.

Copyright Observer Publishing Co.