The governor said the legislation would create more than 1,000 jobs when he signed the legislation last year. Environmentalists said it would spur pollution and hurt the environment.
At this point, neither is right, because companies aren't interested right now.
“We're going to unleash the resources of North Carolina and produce jobs in North Carolina, and help our country become energy independent,” he said at a June 2014 news conference.
According to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, not a single group has applied for a drilling permit since the moratorium was officially lifted in March.
Wells Fargo Securities Energy Analyst Ross Payne says it’s about economics.
“Natural gas prices have been down about 42 percent year over year, kind of following what we've seen on the oil side, which is down over 50 percent,” he said.
Payne says we're oversupplied on gas. That makes new gas an unattractive investment.
“As a result, we're going to see both oil and natural gas production start to plateau, and the next step is probably down somewhat,” said Payne.
Ross says that could change as the United States gets into natural gas exports two years from now.
“We'll probably start to see a stability of production, and potentially an increase as exports start to ramp up,” he said.
Even if gas prices rise, companies say there's more gas in states like Pennsylvania, where they already have infrastructure to get it out of the ground, on the road, and to the consumer.
The stagnation in North Carolina hasn't been free. The state spent an undetermined amount of money on the fracking push, spending untold amounts on man hours and field studies, which turned into a 484 page report.
If things do turn around, the boom might be short-lived anyway.
Ross says further exploration could find more, though that may not happen if prices stay low.
Duke Energy says they plan to use more natural gas in the future, but they're looking toward a pipeline to import gas from other states, instead of using North Carolina-produced natural gas.
A spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources released the following statement:
A total of $650,000 has been allocated to the state to study the potential for oil and gas exploration activities in North Carolina since 2011. Here’s a breakdown of the money allocated to the state since 2011:
The General Assembly allocated $100,000 to DENR for a study of shale gas and oil exploration in 2011. DENR conducted the eight-month study of the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of shale gas exploration and development in North Carolina. This study was directed by Session Law 2011-276, which required DENR to study the issue of oil and gas exploration in the state and focus on the use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas. Some of the money for the study went to the U.S. Geological Survey to support their efforts to identify private water wells in the Lee and Chatham counties. About $20,000 was for specific tests on cores and rock samples from the Deep River and Dan River basins.
Test drilling ($550,000)
The General Assembly allocated DENR $300,000 in fiscal 2013-14 and $250,000 in fiscal 2014-15 to obtain new information about the potential for oil and gas exploration in the Deep River, Cumberland-Marlboro basin and Dan River basin. Test drilling is planned in the next few months for the Dan and Cumberland-Marlboro basins. With the test drilling, DENR will try to determine the existence of oil and gas and what the potential is for those resources. The state has sufficient information about the potential for oil and gas resources in the Deep River basin.