WASHINGTON, DC — The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has released two comprehensive reports that provide detailed geologic information of the Northern Appalachian Basin and northeastern Gulf Coast regions. These reports are an important source of information for companies interested in exploring these regions for deep gas, enhancing the likelihood that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas can be added to our Nation’s domestic supply of energy.
Exploration for deep (greater than 15,000 feet) natural gas reservoirs is expensive and risky. The first step in reducing the risk is to develop a geological “model” to guide drilling—a plausible scenario for how the reservoirs were formed and what geologic clues can help locate them. But developing such models takes money, time, and scientific expertise that most independent exploration and production companies do not have.
Partnerships can pool resources and expertise to develop these models and create widely accessible guides for exploration. NETL works to facilitate these partnerships, lowering the risk of domestic deep resource development. The new reports, which resulted from such an effort, cover two of the Nation’s most promising plays.
The Trenton-Black River play is a high-risk, deep play that stretches from New York to West Virginia with additional potential in Ohio and Kentucky. The play holds enormous future potential. For example, the play’s relatively few wells drilled in New York are currently responsible for at least half of the gas produced in the state. But choosing well sites is tricky. Some wells prove to be very prolific, while others nearby are expensive failures.
With cost-shared funding from NETL, the Trenton-Black River Appalachian Basin Exploration Consortium was formed to merge the resources, data, and technical expertise of 17 exploration companies and West Virginia University. The consortium’s report, titled Geologic Play Book of Trenton-Black River Exploration in the Appalachian Basin, incorporates regional geologic, geochemical, and geophysical data into a model that will be used for exploiting the most promising reservoirs within the Trenton-Black River geologic formations. The report, which can be ordered using the NETL CD-DVD ordering system includes an extensive amount of compiled data, including fairways where companies should focus their attention. The report also provides a model for assessing the resource to be found in Trenton-Black River reservoirs across the region. Companies are already using this research product to help plan exploration programs.
The Mississippi Interior Salt Basin (MISB) is another potential major source of natural gas. Ranked by the U.S. Geological Survey as being in the top 8 percent of the most petroliferous basins in the world, the MISB is an underexplored region with a number of formations having high hydrocarbon potential. This northeastern Gulf Coast region has been explored primarily by small- and medium-sized companies that typically do not have the resources to synthesize the large amount of data required to perform an integrated analysis of this magnitude.
NETL worked with the University of Alabama to carry out a comprehensive “basin analysis” of the MISB. The modeling work done by the University of Alabama identifies the best methods for continued successful exploration in the MISB. The report detailing the model and its implications for expanding exploration in the region, titled Resource Assessment of the In-Place and Potentially Recoverable Deep Natural Gas Resource of the Onshore Interior Salt Basins, North Central and Northeastern Gulf of Mexico, can be downloaded from the NETL website.
NETL has a long history of identifying opportunities where data compilations and analyses generated by public and private partnerships can be used to lower the risks of exploration for domestic oil and gas resources. Other examples include—
- The Western Basins Geology and Resource Studies.
- The Basin Centered Gas Study, and the Deep Reservoir Studies done in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey.
- The Rome Trough Consortium headed by the Kentucky Geologic Survey.
- The Anadarko, Greater Green River, Uinta and Wind River Basins performed at NETL.
All of these products have been well received by industry and can be found on NETL's oil and natural gas reference shelf. In the words of one oil and gas company exploration manager, "This is a great example of how industry and the government labs can help one another."