“…The major amount of the Marcellus play will not be underneath the New York City water supply anyway….”

There has been plenty of drilling through the Marcellus shale in New York—enough to estimate the potential for recoverable gas reserves from the rock—says Dr. Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, and Ralph Williams, principal and founder of well analysis and petroleum engineering firm Reservoir Visualization Inc.

If the Marcellus has been penetrated a great deal already why would penetrating it now create any new threat to water supply there? “You are asking a question that really verges on the political rather than the scientific,” Engelder says in the webinar “Marcellus G&G—The View From The Subsurface” presented by OilandGasInvestor.com and UGcenter.com and now available for viewing on demand.

“As far as I can tell, the major hold-up (in drilling the Marcellus) in New York state involves the fact that some of the Marcellus occurs underneath the Catskill Mountains water supply to New York City. Gas production there is always the concern the environmentalists have. Until the (gas-drilling) operators (and I) can convince the public that the fear over hydraulic fracturing and its ability to pollute ground water—until that is abated, until the public becomes convinced and has confidence in the facts we have—then the politicians will remain uneasy.

“It is a PR job that needs to be done and I am confident that, eventually, the politicians will come to understand that, first of all, the major amount of the Marcellus play will not be underneath the New York City water supply anyway and, secondly, subsurface activity at the depth the Marcellus is found is not in any way going to endanger the near-surface water supplies.”

In the past 29 months, Engelder has discussed the Marcellus’ potential in 129 forums before more than 7,000 industry and non-industry members. He estimates that 117 Appalachian Basin counties could become economic for Marcellus pay, and he estimates the ultimate recovery (EUR) after 50 years of production decline at 867 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas on a P10 basis and 220 Tcf on a P90 basis.

The economic production he forecasts would come from 17 New York counties, 42 in Pennsylvania, 18 in Ohio, 39 in West Virginia and one in Maryland. His estimate is based on assumption of a power-law rate-decline model in which 70% of the sections produce and spacing is 80 acres.

Engelder says a great deal about the Marcellus in New York is known from penetrations of it in developing the Oriskany sandstone gas-storage fields. “I remind you that the Oriskany is below the Marcellus so, as a consequence of that type of drilling activity, we know about a lot of the details. Some of the real cross-sections show the Marcellus.”

Some areas especially pop. “It is very clear that, in areas such as Broome County…Tioga County and Chemung County, I think that’s an area where I think the Marcellus will work very well, providing that the state legislature lets the operators do their thing there, which has so far been a problem.”

Williams’ firm has data on more than 3 million U.S. oil and gas wells, including 30,000 wells that have penetrated the Marcellus. He says Marcellus well data is especially transparent in New York. “We have a lot more control in New York. First, the Marcellus is a lot shallower and actually goes to outcrop (there). Now how far the black shales and hot (high API gamma ray) shales do continue to outcrop where they transition from gas-bearing to water-bearing will be determined as drilling progresses up into New York, but you definitely have all of the Marcellus intervals active in New York and should be productive.”

Could any of New York’s Marcellus gas be drained via wells in Pennsylvania? “Absolutely none,” says Engelder. Williams adds, “I concur with Terry on that question. If you look at other shale plays, they’re down-spaced to 160s- and 80-acre spacing to drain these reservoirs, so it’s going to take a lot of drainage points and they don’t drain large distances.”

Engelder concludes, “The Marcellus represents one of the world’s greatest opportunities for gas-shale production, and America itself is set up to capitalize on this with other (shale) plays...One of the challenges for the operators…is to further engage the politicians to help them come to the understanding of the magnificence of this particularly resource and the opportunity it offers in American industry to expand and…to slow down the flow of cash out of America. To bring in (foreign) petroleum, it seems to me to be so unnecessary given the size of the resource America has in the form of natural gas.”

Williams, who presented in the webinar while in the field in Pennsylvania, says of the Appalachian Basin, “This is an amazing basin. It is one of the venerable basins and, as we talk to the people and the operators here, it’s been a long time coming for the Appalachian Basin to be in the spotlight for the U.S. and there is a lot of hydrocarbon in the Marcellus and the many other zones in all of the basins in the country and we look forward to developing that.”

For more details on Appalachia’s Marcellus play, including state-by-state and county-by-county estimates for economic production potential, click to the webinar “Marcellus G&G—The View From The Subsurface” now available for viewing on demand.

–Nissa Darbonne (ndarbonne@hartenergy.com), E-Editor, Hart Energy Publishing; Oil and Gas Investor, A&D Watch, Oil and Gas Investor This Week, OilandGasInvestor.com Today, OilandGasInvestor.com, A-Dcenter.com, UGcenter.com, UGcenter.com Today, EPmag.com, E&P Buzz, PipeLineandGasTechnology.com, PGT News, HartFUEL.com, FUEL.