In litigation aimed at challenging the moratorium on shale gas extraction (fracking) in the Delaware Valley, three PA senators are asking the court to declare that the Delaware River Basin Authority does not have the authority to regulate drilling in the basin. According to Environment and Energy Daily reporter Ellen Gilmer, “In a court filing this week, state Sens. Joseph Scarnati, Lisa Baker and Gene Yaw urged the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to allow them to join a group of landowners challenging a long-standing drilling freeze in the 13,539-square-mile watershed, which includes parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware.“
A portion of the Marcellus formation lies under the river basin in north-eastern PA and north-western NJ, and the hope of big profits from the gas trapped there has seduced people to want the ban lifted despite the dangers to water, air, and the health of residents near extraction sites.
Bucks County is over the Newark Basin Shale, not the Marcellus. There are no producing wells in this formation and two exploratory wells drilled years ago have since been plugged with no conclusive evidence that further exploration would find economically attractive extraction possibilities. Of course even if the exploration companies were optimistic, we wouldn’t expect them to be forthcoming with their knowledge. But, a 2007 technical article concluded:
The results of drilling the two wells in the Newark basin of Pennsylvania provided an initial insight into subsurface conditions.
It allows a broad correlation of seismic data with subsurface conditions. It also exposed the fact that the subsurface characteristics of this basin are more complex than the “cookie cutter” geology that has been imposed upon it since the mid-1800s.
Reservoir analysis suggests that there is a thick, organically rich, siltstone-shale-mudstone complex in basin center that is apparently equal to other great fractured shale reservoirs.
With a thickness ranging from 2,500 ft to over 4,000 ft, the Lockatong member could host many significant local reservoirs that could produce economic amounts of relatively dry natural gas. In addition, there is a possibility that sandstones with porosity might lie in proximity to the organic shale, and could, under the proper conditions, be significantly large natural gas reservoirs.
Finally, the author believes his original model for the basin is still viable. If this is the case, then fluvial sand buildups in proximity to the organic shale could be present and could form significant sand reservoirs.
There is too little subsurface information available to the geological community to allow a more precise discussion of reservoir development or location at this time. What can be stated is that there is a good possibility that a significant reservoir in an economically attractive location may be present.
The author will conclude with the comments of two geologists who do not wish to be identified. One geologist said, “This reservoir looks better than the Barnett, even at this early stage of development.” The other said, “Given the limitations of the dataset and the variables of basin configuration, what we may be looking at is one of the last significant, completely undeveloped reservoirs left in the world.”
The lacustrine reservoirs of the Newark basin hold great potential and should encourage further testing by drilling. [source: Art Pyron www.ogj.com]
I can’t help feeling that it’s only a matter of time before there is renewed interest in exploring the Newark Shale. It’s closer to the surface (3,000 feet instead of 5 to 7,000) and it will be close to the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) hub proposed for Philadelphia. So when people tell you there is no gas here, beware. In the industry it is said there is “no known gas” until it’s proven with a producing well.