WVU Geologist Says Low Risk Of Marcellus Shale Drilling In Pocahontas

Marlinton, WV – WVU Geologist Tim Carr says while not out of the question entirely, it’s unlikely that full scale Marcellus Shale drilling will be coming to Pocahontas County anytime soon. That was reassuring news to many who attended a special meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission on November 14th. Carr says Pocahontas doesn’t have the right kind of Marcellus shale.

“I would say the probability of Marcellus wells in Pocahontas County is fairly low,” says Carr. “You have thick Marcellus, but its clastic rich, and not as organic rich as it is farther to the west.”

Clastic rocks are composed predominantly of broken pieces or clasts of older weathered and eroded rocks. While Marcellus shale does lie underneath the county and in some places on the surface, Pocahontas is on the outside edge of the Marcellus fairway’ the optimal area for drilling for natural gas deposits. This could make the county an unprofitable venture for drilling companies to consider. Pocahontas resident Beth Little questioned Carr about drilling in Nicholas and northern Greenbrier county.

“That’s Greenbrier – right in there, there’s six Marcellus wells, and just to the west of that in Richwood, there are active Marcellus wells,” says Little. “Now according to what you’ve said so far, they would not be in the fairway; what are they doing there?”

“They have an idea that they can produce from it,” says Carr.

“There’s one in Nicholas County that’s being flared, been flared for over 2 months because it’s wet gas?” asks Little. “And they’re flaring it because it’s not marketable?”

“That’s not a Marcellus well, that’s probably a shallow zone well,” says Carr.

Carr says they are drilling for methane in the Marcellus, a dry gas, as opposed to liquid gases such as ethane, propane, and butane. And because the Marcellus in Pocahontas is as not rich in organic material, the formations likely are not a good source of methane gas. He says Pocahontas does have 85 wells, 62 of which are active and used for gas storage.

“We use about 22, 23 trillion cubic feet [of gas] a year,” says Carr. “And we use a heck of a lot more in the wintertime, so the pipelines were developed to bring the pipe gas up here, put it underground; we store about 3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas underground as close to market as you can get. This is in the oriskany sandstone, right below the Marcellus.”

He says these wells are actually more difficult to run because gas is pumped in during the spring under pressure, and then pumped out in the winter. The gas supplies Washington D.C. and other parts of Virginia. He was not sure whether or not it also supplies local natural gas needs.

Carr makes no attempt to hide the fact that he is an advocate of developing the Marcellus play to its full potential. But he admits that better regulations and enforcement are needed to make sure that it’s done in the right way.

“We need to have good regulations, good designs and surveys, we can’t let the good ole boys go out in the back of a truck,” he says. “I’m actually more scared when I see a traditional oil well out in Wetzel County with two guys in the back of a truck with no berms, no nothing; there’s nothing there except a guy driving a truck up, pulling a rig and working on it and there’s oil all over the place.”

“As opposed to those pads, which are intrusive, but they’re well designed and that’s the way we’ve got to go if we’re going to do this. We can’t let Ma and Pa Kettle drill oil and gas wells.”

The Pocahontas County Commissioners will hear from another expert on Thursday, November 17th. Paul Rubin, a hydro geologist from New York will give his presentation at 5:30 pm at the courthouse in Marlinton.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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