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The Times
  • Utica Shale: Hydrofracking, the sequel?

  • You’ve heard all about the Marcellus Shale — a gold mine for oil and gas industries with its abundance of natural gas waiting to be extracted by high volume hydraulic fracturing.

    But another potential for hydrofracking lies about 4,000 to 5,000 feet deeper into the earth within Utica Shale.

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  • You’ve heard all about the Marcellus Shale — a gold mine for oil and gas industries with its abundance of natural gas waiting to be extracted by high volume hydraulic fracturing.
    But another potential for hydrofracking lies about 4,000 to 5,000 feet deeper into the earth within Utica Shale.
    And that, according to a map from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Revised Draft of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, extends north and east in the state encompassing much of Oneida County and the southern portion of Herkimer County
    While it’s not on the radar for big industry now, U.S. Geological Survey Hydrogeologist Bill Kappel said there’s “definitely potential.”
    The key to discovering more about the shale is test wells, he said.
    “It’s the first step in that process in determining whether it’s really viable, or if it’s not,” Kappel said. “A lot of these companies drill these wells and don’t share this information. Whether it’s good or bad, they’re not going to say. They’re going to keep it in their back pocket.”
    John Conrad, a hydrogeologist and environmental consultant from Conrad Geoscience referred to GateHouse News Service by the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, said Utica Shale definitely is a future endeavor.
    The information on how abundant and when drilling could occur is sparse, Conrad said.
    “I don’t have any information from the industry on who’s planning exploratory drilling,” he said. “There’s not a lot of information being circulated that I’ve been able to access.”
    Right now the industry has focused its efforts in Ohio and western Pennsylvania, Kappel said.
    “They don’t want to throw all this money down the hole,” he said. “In the future, with the price of gas getting higher, some companies may say now it’s time to get into the Utica market.”
    Hydrofracking involves mixing chemicals with millions of gallons of water and pumping the mixture into wells to create fractures in rock formations that allow natural gas to be harvested.
    The decision to allow the technology in the state currently is at a standstill.
    Another public comment period on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s revised regulatory document is going on now through Jan. 11, and the new deadline to finalize the rules is Feb. 27.
    Jim Miller, extension educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County, said while the industry is interested in the Utica Shale, right now they’re more interested in the Marcellus.
    “They would be interested in the low hanging fruit,” he said. “Then as the supplies start to wan, and that could be years from now, then they might turn their interests to other deposits.”
    Page 2 of 2 - According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Geological Survey recently calculated Utica Shale to hold about 38 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas, 940 million barrels of oil and 9 million barrels of natural gas liquids such as ethane and propane.
    These area covered parts of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
    Such estimates are highly variable and subject to revision. The USGS estimated last year the eight-state Marcellus region contains some 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, recoverable natural gas.
    For hydrofracking opponent Carleton Corey, owner of The Mum Farm in New Hartford, looking at Utica Shale only makes sense.
    “After the wet gas runs out, where’s the next frontier? It seems pretty obvious,” he said, alluding to hydrofracking in the Mohawk Valley.
    Officials said that determining exactly where it would be most profitable is difficult because little has been done to test it.
    “There’s no good characterization of the Utica in New York,” Kappel said. “We don’t know for sure how viable it is.”
    Right now the industry knows that it will cost more money than it’s worth, he added.
    “It costs more. It’s deeper,” Kappel said. “It’s not as high on the horizon right now. It’s not being drilled as much because they’re spending the money where they can make their money.”
    Most of it relies on supply and demand tipping in the industry’s favor. With gas prices and demand low, the move out west for liquid gas boosts their profits.
    “When supply and demand go in their favor, then you’ll probably see an increase in drilling,” Kappel said.
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