In the Marcellus Shale, one company's regulatory burden is another company's business opportunity.
At a prelude to the natural gas industry's Shale Insight conference this week at the Convention Center, a dozen companies on Tuesday demonstrated emerging technologies aimed at the drilling industry. Some of the new techniques improve efficiency and reduce drilling costs. Many are aimed at helping gas producers comply with more rigorous environmental regulations.
Entrepreneurs showed new ways to treat wastewater, reduce emissions, recover solid wastes, and line well-drilling sites to contain spills.
And then there was the Mobile Air Shower, a walk-in chamber designed by a Blair County firm called HalenHardy L.L.C. The device removes silica dust from the clothing of workers who handle the sand injected into gas wells during the hydraulic fracturing process. Inhaled dust has been linked to silicosis.
The device delivers a 30-second air blast that HalenHardy chief executive Donny Beaver described as "kind of like a leaf blower on steroids."
It reduces what he calls the "Pig-Pen effect" - workers being followed by a cloud of silica dust.
The air shower on Tuesday won an environmental, health, and safety award from the Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center, a branch of Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Environmental issues are high on the agenda of the two-day conference that opens Wednesday. And the environmental consequences of drilling will also dominate events planned by anti-drilling activists outside the Convention Center.
Activists who are seeking a drilling moratorium in Pennsylvania set up shop Tuesday at Arch Street United Methodist Church to solicit bottled water for rural residents affected by shale-gas development. Their event is called Shale Gas Outrage.
Mayor Nutter's office said that no groups had applied for demonstration permits, but an anti-fracking group is planning a "noise demonstration" outside the Convention Center on Wednesday morning.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the industry group sponsoring the conference, said it had asked the city to prevent the demonstrators from blocking the center's entrance, as they did last year.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is scheduled to deliver the keynote address Thursday.
The shale coalition launched the convention in Philadelphia in 2011 as a way to promote the industry in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The group plans to move the conference to Pittsburgh next year and alternate between the cities in coming years.
More than 1,500 people have registered for the event.