PTTC helps sell-out audience take ‘deeper look at shales’

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June 22, 2011 by Trina Wafle, National Research Center for Coal and Energy

Morgantown, W.Va. — Building upon its growing reputation as a trusted source of information about the Marcellus shale, a West Virginia University petroleum program is helping energy experts tackle a whole new learning curve of discovery focusing on another natural gas deposit that lies even deeper than Marcellus – the Utica shale play.

The WVU-based Petroleum Technology Transfer Council’s Appalachian Region, the Ohio Geological Survey and the Ohio Geological Society teamed up to provide about 250 petroleum engineers, geologists, environmental engineers, compliance personnel and regulatory agencies with the information they need to get ready to understand the Utica Shale, the next great target for natural gas recovery efforts.

A special workshop, called Taking a Deeper Look at Shales: Geology and Potential of the Upper Ordovician Utica Shale in the Appalachian Basin, was held June 21 at Kent State University Tuscarawas at New Philadelphia, OH. Interest in the topic is so great that the event was booked to capacity.

“Currently, companies are searching for more information on the Utica,” Doug Patchen,Shale Plays director of the PTTC-ARL organization said.

Patchen also directs the WVU-based Appalachian Oil and Natural Gas Research Consortium – a group that has conducted multidisciplinary research in petroleum and natural gas technology since 1989 in partnership with the WVU Department of Geology and Geography in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering in WVU’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, along with the state geological surveys of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and New York.

During an earlier DOE-funded research effort, the Consortium produced a “playbook” for the Trenton and Black River carbonates, the geologic formations that underlie the Utica shale. These “playbooks” document geologists’ best estimation of the thickness and extent of rock strata, their structural position, reservoir properties, and estimates of oil and gas potential. Oil and gas companies use the information to select drilling locations. Data collected on the Utica shale during preparation of the Trenton and Black River playbook will be presented during the workshop.

The shales that hold the natural gas that is sparking a new “gold rush” had their origins more than 390 million years ago. Then, the northern parts of Appalachia – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and parts of West Virginia, were part of a seaway that collected sediment from nearby mountains as well as sea life. That sediment became shale and all the organic materials became oil and natural gas hydrocarbons, some of which seeped into surrounding rock formations. Those formations have largely been harvested during the past 100 years. The original hydrocarbon material that remained in the shale rock is what is now being pursued.

The Marcellus shale is in development and experts are now looking toward deeper shales like the Utica play as a source for even more natural gas.

Patchen said much of the Utica shale is located at the northern end of the Appalachian basin in Canada, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio, and is thicker and more widespread than the Marcellus shale averaging more than 200 feet thick in Ohio and reaching upwards of 800 feet thick in New York.

“Results from early drilling programs show great promise, not only for gas, but for oil production as well,” Patchen said. “The goal of our workshop is to make industry aware of the results of research and data on the Utica and to provide a status report on initial drilling programs.”

Presenters included researchers, faculty and industry experts from Ohio Geological Survey, Ohio State University, Weatherford Labs, Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Talisman Energy, Gastem USA, New York Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The Petroleum Technology Transfer Council is a program partner of WVU’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy.


CONTACT: Trina Karolchik Wafle, (304) 293-6038