Natural Gas Amount Is Up In The Marcellus Shale

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted August 25, 2011

Yesterday the United States Geological Survey said the Marcellus Shale formation might contain 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Energy Information Administration does not agree.

The Marcellus Shale, as discussed in a previous article, stretches across parts of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.

In 2002 the USGS estimated the Marcellus held only 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. They claim contributors to the increase in natural gas come from the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing opening vast formations to production.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) had a different number than USGS. Earlier this year EIA estimated the Marcellus Shale contained 410 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Making the new 84 trillion estimation 80 percent lower than what was previously predicted.

The two organizations had such a difference in numbers because they looked at the potential natural gas in the Marcellus in very different ways.

USGS bases their study on the geology of the formation and what current technology can produce from it. Advancements in drilling have made the formation more accessible.

“We look at issues like the drainage area each well has to reach, look at the cell size, how many wells are typically drilled in each area,” said Brenda Pierce, the USGS’s Energy Resource Program Director.

USGS has also estimated that 3.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas liquid also exist in the Marcellus Shale.

The EIA based their findings of 410 trillion cubic feet on a significant amount of data from future projections. The EIA has since decided to use the data provided by USGS instead of their own.

USGS appears to have been accurate in their measurements, so by their standards the amount of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is higher than the previously predicted 2 trillion cubic feet.

Accurate estimates are needed for lawmakers deciding on subsidies and policies, and landowners and investors who are deciding if they should sell or lease their land to gas companies.

There is still the possibility that the predicted number could decrease, as there could be pockets too deep to reach and areas that are off limits to drilling.

Until next time,


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