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Fracking not likely in Van Buren

— Officials asked whether hydrofracking was likely in the town of Van Buren and Plumley Engineering answered – no, it is not.

After fielding concerns regarding the controversial process of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, Van Buren officials hired the local firm to investigate the matter and then present the findings during the town’s Feb. 5 board meeting. Joel Plumley gave a presentation regarding the process focusing on the geologic factors that determine the fracking desirability of an area, namely the presence of black shale (a very organic, sedimentary rock), depth of the shale below ground surface, thickness of the rock and the shale’s thermal maturity.

Plumley said Marcellus Shale is considered the “Holy Grail” of hydrofracking. Then there is Utica Shale. Not as much is known about this rock, he said.

Both types of shale are only valuable in regard to natural gas development if they are underground deep enough so that they are under pressure “cooking,” as Plumley put it, into a liquid and/or gas form. Marcellus Shale outcrops (comes out of the ground) south of Van Buren, meaning it doesn’t exist here for hydrofracking purposes. Utica Shale is between 2,000 and 3,000 feet under Van Buren; however, it thins from east to west. While it is thick in the Mohawk Valley, in Van Buren it is only 0 to 50-feet thick (between other layers of rock).

Lastly, the total organic carbon content of Utica Shale across Central New York increases traveling from the northwest to southeast into the Mohawk Valley. According to Plumley, the best place to find gas, or the “sweet spot” for drilling in New York State, is in the Mohawk Valley where both the Marcellus and Utica shale are deeper (under more pressure), thicker layers exist and the rock is more mature.

There are, however, gas leases in Van Buren, Plumley said, adding there is a much higher density of leases in the southeast portion of New York state.

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