Feb 14, 2013 Erin Wisneski Uncategorized
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.
“I’m not going to tell you that there will never be a drill in Van Buren,” Plumley said, but he didn’t expect a lot of activity in this area.
Hydrofracking is a process in which large amounts of water, combined with smaller amounts of chemicals and sand, are pumped under high pressure into a drilled gas well. The technique is considered controversial because of potential environmental impacts including contamination of ground water, surface contamination from spills and flowback, and risks to air quality among other concerns. Currently restricted in New York as the state government has been reviewing the pros and cons of the controversial process, legislation allowing or banning hydrofracking has yet to be drafted.
Plumley briefly discussed vertical drilling, a practice that was common in Baldwinsville in the 1890s and early 1900s. He said numerous wells were drilled throughout Van Buren, Lysander and Elbridge and some still exist today. The gas traveled through fractures in Adirondack rock, which is 3,000 feet into the ground. By vertical drilling, people were able to access pockets of gas, which lit hotels, street lamps and homes. By the 1930s, however, most of the supply was depleted.
To view the Powerpoint presentation provided by Plumley Engineering, visit http://www.townofvanburen.com/docs/Hydrofracking%20Presentation%20Powerpoint%20February%202013.pdf.