USGS Hikes Appalachian Estimates for Natural Gas

(October 24, 2019) — The Marcellus Shale and Point Pleasant/Utica Shale formations in the Appalachian Basin contain an estimated 214 Tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas, according to new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessments. The Marcellus, Point Pleas- ant, and Utica are extensive formations that cover parts of Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The finding from the new assessment is a significant increase from previous USGS tallies. In 2011, the agency estimated a mean of 84 Tcf of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale and in 2012 it estimated about 38 Tcf in the Utica Shale. Significant amounts of natural gas have been produced from the Marcellus and Utica shales since the previous assessments. USGS assessments are for remaining resources and exclude known and produced oil and gas.

“Watching our estimates for the Marcellus rise from 2 trillion to 84 trillion to 97 trillion in under 20 years demonstrates the effects American ingenuity and new technology can have,” said USGS director Jim Reilly. “Knowing where these resources are located and how much exists is crucial to ensuring our nation’s energy independence.”

USGS notes that the natural gas in the Appalachian formations is classified as continuous because it is spread throughout the assessed rock layers instead of being concentrated in discrete accumulations. Production techniques like directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing are required to produce these resources.

“Since our assessments in 2011 and 2012, industry has improved upon its development techniques for continuous resources like the shale gas in the Appalachian Basin,” said Walter Guidroz, director of the USGS Energy Resources Program. “That technical advancement, plus all of the geological information we’ve gained from the last several years of production, have allowed us to greatly expand our understanding of these formations.”

The Marcellus Shale also contains an estimated 1.5 Bbbl of natural gas liquids, while the Point Pleasant/ Utica Shale contains an estimated 1.8 Bbbl of oil and 985 MMbbl of natural gas liquids. These assessments are for undiscovered, technically recoverable resources. Undiscovered resources are those that have been estimated to exist based on geology and other data, but have not yet been proven to exist by drilling or other means. Technically recoverable resources, meanwhile, are those that can be produced using today’s standard industry practices and technology. This is different from reserves, which are those quantities of oil and gas that are currently profitable to produce.

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources onshore and offshore. The USGS Marcellus and Point Pleasant/Utica shale assessments were undertaken as part of a nationwide project to assess U.S. petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, October 21, 2019)