18 January 2008

Peak Oil: Meet Marcellus Black Shale

Up to 500 trillion cubic feet-- US$ 1 Trillion -- of unconventional natural gas deposits lie within the north Appalachian Plateau, within the US. New gas drilling technologies--spurred by higher prices for natural gas--make possible an extended era of natural gas in the US.
"The value of this science could increment the net worth of U.S. energy resources by a trillion dollars, plus or minus billions," says Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences, at Penn State.

The Marcellus shale runs from the southern tier of New York, through the western portion of Pennsylvania into the eastern half of Ohio and through West Virginia. In Pennsylvania, the formation extends from the Appalachian plateau into the western valley and ridge. This area has produced natural gas for years, but the Marcellus shale, a deep layer of rock, is officially identified as holding a relatively small amount of proven or potential reserves. However, many gas production companies are now interested in the Marcellus.

Engelder, working with Gary Lash, professor of geoscience, SUNY Fredonia, has conservatively estimated that the Marcellus shale contains 168 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in place and optimistically suggests that the amounts could be as high as 516 trillion cubic feet.
Science Daily (via NextEnergy)

A trillion dollars toward the plus side of the balance sheet would not hurt any country, even one with as large an economy as the US. It is likely that for the next few decades--until fossil fuels are no longer considered economically or environmentally viable--large new finds of oil and gas deposits will occur fairly regularly. The economic incentive is certainly there. The main limiting factor is the worldwide shortage of skilled engineers, tradesmen, and trained workers.

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