WHEELING, W.Va. — The Marcellus, Utica and Rogersville shales may just be the beginning of the prolific natural gas formations in the Appalachian Mountains, as West Virginia now boasts more proved reserves of the fuel than any other states except Texas, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an arm of the Department of Energy, indicate West Virginia saw its amount of recoverable natural gas jump by 7.94 trillion cubic feet from 2013 to 2014. According to Cabot Oil and Gas, that would be enough energy to power more than 44 million trips to the moon and back.
“It’s pretty darn exciting, if we have somewhere to put it all,” Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said. “Because this mountain range is so old, we’ve got multiple formations in there. It’s got all kinds of material in it. We know there are formations at 20,000 feet. We know there are formations at 30,000 feet.”
“Proved reserves” is an industry term used to describe the amount of resources that can be recovered from the deposit with a reasonable level of certainty. Basically, it is how much natural gas can be retrieved using current methods of drilling and fracking.
DeMarco said the numbers keep increasing in West Virginia because of how plentiful the Utica formation is proving to be, as well as the discovery of the Rogersville Shale, which underlies a portion of West Virginia stretching from the general vicinity of Huntington to Parkersburg. DeMarco said a test well drilled in Putnam County went about 14,000 feet deep, or about 2.6 miles, into the earth to reach the Rogersville.
“Our techniques keep getting better, too,” DeMarco said. “We now have laterals going out to 12,000 feet. That’s more than two miles.”
Pipeliners continue installing billions of dollars worth of projects to ship Marcellus and Utica material to larger markets.
“It would be nice to think that all we have to do is use the gas in the Appalachian Basin, but that’s just not reality.” DeMarco said. “We need takeaway. Undoubtedly, the pipelines will help.”
Ohio saw its proved natural gas jump by 3.99 Tcf from the last measurement, while Pennsylvania’s number jumped by 10.36 Tcf. These increases are largely due to the productivity of the Utica formation.
Across the U.S., proved natural gas reserves set a record at the last county to reach 388 Tcf. The amount of recoverable crude oil and lease condensate across the nation now exceeds 39 billion barrels, the fourth-highest total on record. Condensate is a light oil recovered at many Upper Ohio Valley drilling operations.
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