- Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 13:05
- Published on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 11:16
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Shale deposits cover vast portions of the United States and they have the potential of producing large amounts of oil and natural gas. The Marcellus Shale deposit runs from New York to Tennessee and includes parts of Virginia. The Bakken Shale formation includes large portion of Montana and North Dakota. The Barnett and Eagle Ford formations take up over half of Texas. There are several more formations in the United States that are just as large. Some are producing oil and gas, with thousands of wells, and some are in the early stages of exploration.
These are large sites. Most cover thousands of square miles. However, for some time, geologists have been aware of much smaller formations and several are right here in our backyard. There has been little if any oil and gas production in the eastern part of Virginia. For the most part, the oil and gas wells we do have are in the far western regions of the Commonwealth. That, however, may be changing.
About 230 million years ago, the rifts created as the continents started to form left behind a series of basins. Over eons, these were filled in with sediments that eventually formed limestone, coal and shale deposits. One of these is the Taylorsville Basin which runs from roughly Clinton, Md. to Richmond. Most notably it includes King George County. There are other formations nearby, such as the Richmond Basin and the Culpeper Basin. They are even smaller.
There is evidence, based on test wells drilled back in the 80’s that the Taylorsville Basin contains oil and gas bearing shale. At the time the evidence from the test wells didn’t indicate a commercially productive formation. But that was before “fracking.”
With fracking the Taylorsville Basin could become productive. Fracking uses high pressure water, pumped deep underground, to break up shale formations, and release natural gas and oil. Whether it can make our Taylorsille Basin economically viable is an open question. But some people think it might. For the past three years a Texas based company, Shore Exploration and Production, has been entering into leases with property owners up and down the Taylorsville Basin, including many in King George, to secure mineral rights.
While the Taylorsville Basin may run right under our feet, we still don’t know exactly what’s in it. The analysis we do have is based on the geological history of the area, aeromagnetic analysis (using an aerial magnetometer to map geological formations) and a few test wells. That’s a good start and there is a strong indication that there is shale and with it probably natural gas. However, being only 175 miles in length and 45 miles wide, it has to compete with the much larger and far more explored shale formations for investment dollars. The big question is whether there is enough gas-bearing shale, accessible enough, to make it worth the investment. Hopefully the answer is yes.
Not too long ago, thanks to my great-grandfather, my family signed a lease for the mineral rights to the old homestead which is a part of the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia. I felt like Jed Clampett from the TV Show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” I also don’t mind the possibility that shale oil and gas are gradually freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil. Many industry experts think that if this resource continues to be exploited that by 2025 the U.S. could become an oil and gas exporter. We haven’t been a net exporter of oil and gas since the 1950’s.
The Taylorsville Basin isn’t large, but the return, if there is shale, and with it, natural gas, could be substantial. Conceivably, King George could have its own oil boom. And, who knows, maybe, in the process, we might have a few home-grown Jed Clampetts of our very own.