Friday, March 23, 2012

Exploring The Marcellus

An excellent visual and written summary of the geological and engineering aspects of the drilling, hydraulic fracturing and production of wells in the Marcellus Shale of the northeastern United States can be found here.

Started by Laura Miller, Marketing Manager I at Penn State Outreach Marketing

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Free Enterprise At Work In Developing The Marcellus Shale

Let this be proof that free enterprise, entreprenuership, and the American Spirit is not dead yet.  My hats off to all the smart and hard working people developing the Marcellus Shale, creating jobs, generating wealth, lowering our energy bills, lessening our dependence on foreign oil, and trying to keep the American economy afloat.  Someone should tell the good folks in Washington, D.C.

March 7, 2012 | PERMALINK | @MarcellusGas

What They’re Saying: Marcellus on Main Street Demonstrates That The “Entrepreneurial Spirit is Alive and Well”

·         “Web-based tool will further connect the dots between Main Street and the natural gas industry”
·         New website “designed to help small and medium-sized businesses become part of the natural gas supply chain”

·         “The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Marcellus”

Canonsburg, PA – With hundreds of small- and mid-sized businesses turning out at five separate and concurrent events yesterday, news outlets across the region took note of Marcellus on Main Street, a new web-based tool developed by the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) to further connect the natural gas industry and Main Street businesses across the region. Partnering with regional chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, the MSC co-hosted events in Philadelphia, Williamsport, Johnstown, Washington and Cranberry Township. Following are several media highlights from yesterday’s Marcellus on Main Street events, which focused on creating and identifying even more small business opportunities tied to responsible American natural gas production.

·         “New Online Directory Links Drilling Industry, Local Suppliers”: Marcellus on Main Street, an initiative of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, is designed to put regional businesses seeking to become part of the supply chain in touch with natural gas drillers looking for everything from worker accommodations to tank manufacturers to hauling services. “We want to help create the success stories,” said Dave Brocious, director of membership and training for the [Marcellus Shale] Coalition. “We want to get the message out that this is a positive economic impact for the area.” … “Just the supply-chain opportunities that have been presented are exciting times across Pennsylvania and Ohio,” [Johnstown Area Regional Industries] President Linda Thomson said. (Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, 3/6/12)

·         “Marcellus Business Directory Unveiled” at Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce: The Marcellus Shale Coalition on Tuesday unveiled an online business directory of small and medium-size firms that want to be part of the shale gas economy. The aim of the Marcellus on Main Street site is to facilitate connections among businesses in the supply chain, Kathryn Klaber, the coalition's president, told a gathering Tuesday at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, one of five events announcing the site. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/6/12)

·       “New Program Connects Small Businesses With Gas Industry”: The Marcellus Shale Coalition on Tuesday launched the first online business directory designed to connect the natural gas industry with small- and medium-sized regional companies. Marcellus on Main Street provides a list of various business types for workers who might not be familiar with the area, as a way to promote the smaller local businesses. "Small local businesses will be able to reach out to oil and gas companies," Eric Cowden, community outreach manager, said. "That's our intent. It's going to work." … Cowden said companies can map out all of their the needs along the way on a trip across the "Marcellus Shale footprint." (Williamsport Sun-Gazette, 3/7/12)
MSC Main Street

Click HERE to Watch WJAC-TV’s Coverage of Yesterday’s
Marcellus on Main Street Event in Johnstown
·        Natural Gas “Industry Debuts Marcellus to Main Street Initiative”: The website provides a directory of places where gas industry professionals can look not only for work opportunities, but also places to live and play in the multi-state region encompassing the Marcellus shale gas play. Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the initiative is "truly a broad-based economic opportunity. … let's just say the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Marcellus." (State Journal, 3/6/12)

·         Marcellus “Shale Coalition Reaches out to Main Street Businesses”: During a presentation conducted with the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Joy Ruff, MSC's community outreach organizer, said the initiative, in the form of the website, is an effort to connect local businesses to members. … "Every business will be in front of our producers across New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland," Ruff told a group of about 50 local small business operators. "It's a way of establishing a relationship between our members and the communities where they work." (Washington Observer-Reporter, 3/7/12)
·         Small “Business Directory to Serve as One-Stop-Shop for Natural Gas Industry”: The Marcellus Shale Coalition is rolling out an online business directory of small and medium-size firms that are or want to be part of the oil and gas supply chain. Kathryn Klaber, the coalition’s president, said this is a chance for businesses to be seen by those in the industry. “It really is already an extension with what’s already happening with our associate members,” she said, meaning that full members — oil and gas operators — “look first at the associate member pool” for business services. Now, the idea is that both full and associate members of the coalition will be looking at the companies listed in this database before they look elsewhere.” (Pittsburgh Business Times, 3/6/12)
·         Marcellus Shale Bolstering Small Business Growth, Job Creating: Today, the Marcellus Shale Coalition launched a new website to make it easier for drilling companies to connect with the regions resources. Enter Marcellus on Main Street. A new online initiative designed to connect Small Businesses in the Johnstown Area with the booming natural gas industry. (WWCP-TV, 3/6/12)
·         “New Website Connects Small Businesses With Shale Boom”: Speak­ing to mem­bers of the Greater Philadel­phia Cham­ber of Com­merce, Mar­cel­lus Shale Coali­tion pres­i­dent Kathryn Klaber said local busi­nesses can use the direc­tory to gain a foothold in the gas drilling boom. Klaber focused on the sup­ply chain that would be needed to not only sup­port new pipeline con­struc­tion, but also water deliv­er­ies and new con­struc­tion projects. Andrew Leitzinger, an exec­u­tive with the engi­neer­ing firm URS Cor­po­ra­tion, said his company’s Mar­cel­lus Shale oil and gas related busi­ness has grown 5000 per­cent since 2008. Leitzinger says drilling activ­ity has allowed the com­pany to hire about 60 new employ­ees in Pennsylvania. (NPR/StateImpact, 3/6/12)
·         Coalition Debuts ‘Marcellus on Main Street'. The Marcellus Shale Coalition this morning unveiled "Marcellus on Main Street," an online business directory designed to help small and medium-sized businesses become part of the supply chain of the burgeoning natural gas industry. … Features include a searchable interactive map and links to firms' external websites. "This is really a broad-based economic opportunity," [MSC president Kathryn Klaber] said of Marcellus gas development, and the site will help more companies get involved. (Central Penn Business Journal, 3/6/12)
·         MSC Highlights New Small Business Partnership on Local Radio: Along with hitting several television news programs, the MSC discussed Marcellus on Main Street and supply chain opportunities available for small- and mid-sized businesses in the natural gas industry on local radio yesterday, too. Click HERE to listen to the interview.

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GM Is Catching On....Dual Fuel Pickups, Compressed Natural Gas Or Gasoline

I want heck with those itty-bitty death trap electric toy cars......

Posted Monday, Mar. 05, 2012
General Motors plans to begin taking orders in April for pickups that run on both gasoline and compressed natural gas, potentially reducing costs for users.

The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended-cab pickups will be offered with a 6.0-liter, V-8 engine that can "seamlessly" transition between natural gas and gasoline, the Detroit-based automaker said today.

A vehicle such as the ones GM will offer can save a driver $6,000 to $10,000 in fuel costs over a three-year period because CNG is cheaper than gasoline, said Joyce Mattman, director of GM commercial product and specialty vehicles.
more here

Geosteering Of "Horizontal" Wells

A recent posting on LinkedIn inspired me to elaborate on this subject.  Much more could be written.   The subject under discussion is the drilling of "horizontal" wells, which are so crucial to the great increases in oil and gas production we are now seeing from formerly unproductive shales around the world.  Of course hydraulic fracturing is equally important (and sensational, thus "newsworthy").

I know from experience that it is possible to steer an actively drilling (and fast!) well AND it is possible to keep the drill bit within a few feet, sometimes less, of a desired stratigraphic horizon, "pay zone", or "target".  This is really what determines the success or failure of a well in these new "unconventional" shale plays.

Yes, of course the engineering aspects of drilling and completion are important, (a most respectful hat tip to my engineering friends).  And of course my geophysical seismic-interpreting friends provide an invaluable glimpse into the subsurface before the drilling begins.  However, the real success of these plays is dependent upon a knowledge of the stratigraphy of the rocks.  Some things never change.  I also think this can only be learned and appreciated by looking at rocks in the field, not only via "electric" logs and/or on computer screens.  That is why geologists do field work, sweat, get dirty, and break rocks with hammers.  They should anyway, and the more the better.

So, all new technology, the wondrous ability to turn a well bore from vertical to "horizontal", to follow a layer of rock sometimes only a few feet thick, thousands of feet beneath the surface, all comes down to a geologist knowing "where" that well bore is relative to the local stratigraphy.  If this is not correct, all the best seismic, fracture detection, petrophysics, geochemistry, and hydraulic fracturing are for naught.  If your well bore is in the wrong place you're just "outta luck bubba".

I am sure the successful drillers of all the shale plays being developed know these things and more.  Unfortunately, as is usually the case, whether in the oil and gas business, or the mining industry, the little guys make the discoveries and then the big guys swoop in and buy them out.  Think XTO and Exxon/Mobil, Petrohawk in the Eagle Ford, Brigham in the Bakken, or the beginning of the Barnett Shale play with George Mitchell's Mitchell Energy being acquired by Devon, and the list goes on.  Every oil company in the world wants to know how to produce these shales.  However, I'll share a  secret, it is not all computer software and drilling technology.  The secret lies in Wallace Pratt 's dictum that "Oil is found in the minds of men".  (I must add, men AND women with a knowledge of stratigraphy, and I've had the good fortune of being taught by some of the best, e.g. Dott, Pray, Weimer.... to name a few.)

Wallace Everette Pratt (1885–1981) was a pioneer American petroleum geologist.

from Pete  (source)  Subject: Geosteering & Geonavigating Oil & Gas Wells
 • In an attempt to simplify and clarify, I think most drilling and production challenges are directly related to stratigraphy, or the vertical and lateral changes in the characteristcs of sedimentary rocks. Look at any road cut through a layer of sedimentary rocks, look closely at the detail, then imagine drilling through this. The overwhelming influence on hydrocarbon production by the stratigraphy of the reservoir rocks is immediately apparent.

Therefore, whether "proactive" or retroactive, the most valuable form of geosteering or geonavigation is that which can show the drillers and engineers precisely where they are relative to the known surrounding rock layers (stratigraphy). I know this can be done, simply and inexpensively. The key element is the interpreter as much as the tools. The successful developers of plays like the Barnett, Haynesville, Bakken, Marcellus, and Eagle Ford Shales know this, although they tend to keep quiet about it.


The Permian through Jurassic strata of the Colorado Plateau area of southeastern Utah demonstrate the principles of stratigraphy. These strata make up much of the famous prominent rock formations in widely spaced protected areas such as Capitol Reef National Park and Canyonlands National Park. From top to bottom: Rounded tan domes of the Navajo Sandstone; layered red Kayenta Formation; cliff-forming, vertically jointed, red Wingate Sandstone; slope-forming, purplish Chinle Formation; layered, lighter-red Moenkopi Formation; and white, layered Cutler Formation sandstone. Picture from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Another New Shale Play: Newfoundland, Canada

It looks like a new oil exploration and development play might be taking shape in Canada's northeastern Province of Newfoundland.  The target appears to be the stratigraphic equivalent of the Utica Shale of the Ohio, and New York areas in the United States.  In the area of interest off the west coast of Newfoundland around Port au Port Bay, they call this the "Green Point Shale".


Source: Shoal Point Energy website.
Here is a link to a map showing all of the oil and gas activity in eastern Canada.

Oil exploration and production is well established in the offshore basins of eastern Newfoundland with fields such as Hibernia, Terra Nova, and White Rose producing around 300,00 barrels of light crude per day.  (One wonders why exploration and production off Canada's east coast has been allowed where geologically similar areas off the U.S. east coast are off limits.)  Newfoundland is also "friendly" to the oil and gas business, both environmentally and economically.  There is even a refinery in Newfoundland , a good infrastructure network, and a trained workforce in place, presumably eager to expand and grow.  Again this is a refreshing contrast to the U.S.

The Green Point Shale in Newfoundland apparently compares well with the south Texas Eagle Ford Shale that is attracting so much attention.  These factors include total organic content (TOC) of the shales and the thermal maturity of the shales, that is their ability to contain and produce both oil and gas.  One major difference is the Green Point Shale is far thicker in this area than the Eagle Ford Shale is in Texas.

Apparently the Green Point Shale is much thicker than the Eagle Ford Shale, (and many other shales) because it has been through at least one episode of comressional tectonics, or mountain-building.  This has taken the layers of shale, and compressed them, pushing them together like a deck of cards on a table would be pushed together to overlap into a single large deck of cards.  This is a positive aspect to this play.  The negative to this "mountain building" is the layers of rock are much more structurally complex than the shales in for example, the Eagle Ford Shale, Barnett Shale, Haynesville Shale, and the Bakken Formation.  This makes for more difficult drilling and development.  On the other hand, these shales probably compare more favorably with the successfully developing Marcellus Shale in the Pennsylvania area of the eastern U.S.

The exploration of the Green Point Shale is in its preliminary stages but there are some very positive initial results in the area.  However the claims of "Billions" of barrels of oil seem premature and a bit sensational to me, still this area is very much worth watching.

This activity is discussed in more detail here:


Friday, March 2, 2012

Lower Gasoline Prices?

Oh yes, this is going to lower gasoline prices and make the American people happy........right.  First, what subsidies?  Doesn't the industry already pay Billions in taxes and royalties?  This is just pure election year selling promises for votes and it is rather despicable.

Obama Seeks to End Subsidies for Oil and Gas Companies


In New Hampshire, President Obama called on Americans to contact their representatives in Congress and demand a vote to end $4 billion in subsidies.

Texas Independence Day

Today is Texas' Independence Day....
Exploring for Battlefields
March 1, 2012 |

... After an oil exploration career, Robert Marshall decided to locate the site of the “Battle of Medina”.
See More
A retired petroleum geologist with a love of history says he's found the long-lost site of the deadliest battle ever fought on Texas soil. [...] some Texas history fans focus their energy on the first Texas republic, created in a revolt against Spain nearly 200 years ago and overturned in the lopsi...


Permian Basin, Oil, Gas -- Boom Times, Because of Hydraulic Fracturing And Horizontal Drilling

I haven't been following oil and gas production in the Permian Basin of west Texas and eastern New Mexico since it has become increasingly clear how effective the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are in places like the Bakken of North Dakota, the Barnett Shale, the Marcellus Shale, and the Eagle Ford Shale, to note the most significant success stories.  But The Permian Basin remains in mind because I recognize it as one of the formerly most prolific producing areas in the lower 48 United States.  Where there has been a lot of oil and gas produced, as a geologist, I know much remains, either undiscovered, bypassed, or simply unrecovered for economic (low flow rate) reasons.

The following article, intended for laypersons, and not industry professionals, rather supports my intuition.  In my opinion, the best is yet to come for the Permian Basin.  Read on.


Permian Basin of West Texas seeing oil boom

DALLAS — The Permian Basin of West Texas is experiencing an oil boom, leading some of the region’s top oilmen to predict that Texas oil production will double within five to seven years.
Oil drillers over the last eight years have found that the dense oil rock of the basin surrounding Midland and Odessa responds well to hydraulic fracturing, releasing lush yields. Total oil production last year in Texas averaged more than 1 million barrels per day for the first time since 2001.

“Right in the basin, we could get up to 2 million barrels a day,” Jim Henry of Midland-based Henry Resources told The Dallas Morning News for an article in its Sunday’s edition.
“I’ve been totally surprised by the amount of oil we’re finding out in the shale zones,” Scott Sheffield, chairman and chief executive of Irving-based Pioneer Natural Resources Co., told the newspaper.
“We have 30 billion barrels of new oil discoveries,” said Tim Leach, chairman and CEO of Midland-based Concho Resources. “It can be hard to get your mind around that.

The cloud on the horizon is the persistent drought that has gripped the region. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” requires massive amounts of water to pump into the ground under high pressure.
Drillers also worry about the prospect of tax increases and limits placed on land use by the presence of such endangered species as the dunes sagebrush lizard(You gotta be kidding me, restrict drilling because of a lizard????  I've heard of equally ridiculous reasons.  And people wonder why gasoline prices are so high?  Peter)

But as long as crude oil prices remain high, around $100 per barrel, drilling will remain profitable.
Similar booms are under way in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas and the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and Montana. Production also is climbing rapidly in western Alberta Canada, which is now the largest source of U.S. oil imports.

“I could paint a scenario for you where we are producing 3 million more barrels per day by 2016, which would almost get us to the point where we could eliminate 60 to 70 percent of our OPEC imports,” Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman told The News. “With that greater control over our own energy security, we could care less about what happens in the Strait of Hormuz.”
The narrow straight between the United Arab Emirates and Iran is considered strategically vulnerable to blockade by Iran’s revolutionary regime.  (America?  You want the truth about energy, oil and gas production?  Well you're not being told the truth by the current administration in Washington, D.C., that much is certain.  Peter)

The United States still imports 45 percent of the 19 million barrels of petroleum that it consumes, but that is a sharp reduction, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2005, about two-thirds of all liquid fuels the United States consumed was imported.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Oil Play In Denver Basin, Eastern Colorado

The Oil and Gas Journal just reported that Southwestern Energy is planning on testing what is to me, a new play in the Eastern Colorado's Denver Basin.  I interpret this as being notable for at least several reasons that probably will not be discussed much outside of boardrooms, conference rooms, and maybe bar-rooms.

First, the stratigraphic zones to be targeted  are not prolific, (if at all) producers in the Denver Basin, meaning the "carbonates and shales of middle and late Pennsylvanian to Permian age."  Importantly, Southwestern says these rocks are in the "oil window", meaning the organic matter in the rocks is at the right time and temperature environment for creating and containing oil. 

Other important factors are that Southwestern is first going to drill a vertical hole, called a "pilot hole", probably core it and log it in detail to get a handle on the petrophysical characteristics of the rocks and their hydrocarbon content.  Then they will probably back up the hole and drill a "horizontal lateral" hole a few thousand feet long into the best reservoir zone.  Then they will probably hydraulically fracture it and finally test it.  That all sounds very abitious and expensive.  It is, and that is why this interests the explorationist in me.  In addition, I think Southwestern knows what they are doing.  I'm just reading between the lines of course and have no real insider's knowledge.

Southwestern is very experienced in drilling and geosteering horizontal wells, fracing and then producing them in the Fayetteville Shale in northern  Arkansas.  Now they are drilling for oil in the Smackover of southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana.  As I said, I am very sure Southwestern knows what they're doing, they have a large acreage position in this part of the Denver Basin and they are making a fairly large commitment there.  I think this is a new play very much worth watching.  I think there are many more plays like this in sedimentary rocks passed over during previous exploration eras becasue of low permeability, not a lack of hydrocarbons.

The following is the article from the Oil and Gas Journal.  Good hunting.

By OGJ editors
Southwestern Energy Co., Houston, said it has leased 238,057 net acres in the Denver-Julesburg basin in eastern Colorado where the company will begin testing a new unconventional oil play targeting carbonates and shales of middle and late Pennsylvanian to Permian age.

Common strata names include the Atoka, Desmoinesian-Cherokee-Excello-Tebo-Marmaton, Missourian, Virgilian, and Wolfcamp, Southwestern Energy said.
The play objectives range in vertical depth from 8,000 to 10,500 feet and are within the oil window. The combined Wolfcamp-Atoka interval is more than 1,500 ft thick.

The primary objectives are alternating low-permeability, 20-100 ft thick carbonates separated by 10-75 ft thick organic-rich, carbonate mudstones with total organic carbon estimates ranging from 2% to 27%. Total thickness of the objective section is 300-750 ft.

Southwestern Energy obtained the acreage for $42 million, and its leases currently have an 85% average net revenue interest and an average 5-year primary lease term that may be extended 3 years.

The company submitted a drilling plan to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission earlier this month for approval to spud its first well in the second quarter. This well will be drilled vertically to 9,500 ft and cored and then drilled 2,000 ft laterally.

Southwestern Energy said it could greatly increase activity in the area in the next few years if results are positive.

Surface geologic map of Colorado.  The Denver Basin is just north and east of the Rocky Mountain Front, depicted as the north-south trending purple colored outcrops on the map.