by Jeremy Moule
Recently, the US Geological Survey released its first estimate of "undiscovered, technically recoverable" natural gas in the Utica Shale: 38 trillion cubic feet.
That's a lot of gas, but for the sake of perspective, the estimate isn't even half of the USGS estimate for the Marcellus Shale: 84 trillion cubic feet. The federal agency also says the Greater Green River Basin shale formation in Wyoming contains 84 trillion cubic feet.
The Utica Shale estimate is based on parts of the shale formation in New York, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia. But it doesn't cover the entire formation. For example, the USGS omitted most of Western New York and much of the Finger Lakes region from its estimates, even though the Utica Shale lies underneath the area. Chris Schenk, a spokesperson for USGS, says there's good reason.
"It has to have the parameters to generate oil and gas" to be evaluated, he says. And the rock that makes up the Utica Shale in that area simply doesn't have those characteristics, he says. (That also means that the drillers probably won't be interested in exploring that area, since it's unlikely they'd get enough gas or oil to recoup their investment.)
The state's environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in shale formations includes the Utica Shale.