An argument could be made that soon-to-be retired Chesapeake Energy CEO and President Aubrey McClendon has had the most significant impact on the future of natural gas production in the Mountain State.
Chesapeake announced Tuesday its co-founder has agreed to retire April 1.
West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association Executive Director Corky DeMarco says McClendon’s influence here in the area of horizontal drilling is unmatched.
“I remember when they drilled the first well in 2008 and it was successful, when it starting producing in 2009 and now a lot of people are following that model,” DeMarco said. “He’s one of the players who helped us make a quantum leap from an average shallow well to a horizontal well that drains in one day what some of those vertical wells drained in a year.”
McClendon, just 53-years-old, is seen as a pioneer and a visionary when it comes to production in the lucrative Marcellus shale. DeMarco says he’s been that and more but he’s also been a lightening rod at times.
McClendon has made controversial comments about coal and West Virginia’s legal climate in recent years.
“We walked a fine line when Aubrey would make a statement that was anti-coal or certainly perceived to be anti-coal by some friends of ours in West Virginia. But we got past that,” DeMarco said.
It was the state’s legal climate that prompted McClendon’s most controversial move in West Virginia. After having announced a new regional headquarters would be built in Charleston he pulled the plans in May 2008 and had it built near Pittsburgh at Southpointe. McClendon became upset when the state Supreme Court would not take up a Roane County-based natural gas court case. The plaintiffs were awarded $400 million. DeMarco says that was a missed opportunity.
“We could have been that Southpointe area very easily” DeMarco said. “It’s kind of like when we fought over an airport and Charlotte got it and look at Charlotte today and look at Huntington-Charleston today. No comparison.”
McClendon has served as Chesapeake’s chief executive officer since the start of the company in 1989 and served as chairman of the board from its founding until 2012.