|New York Shale Play Gets Major Downgrade
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The real reason New York State has not allowed high-volume hydrofracking for natural gas in its Marcellus shale is that there is almost no gas that can be economically extracted, according to four retired professionals turned fracking analysts.
Their argument contradicts the gas industry’s narrative – widely accepted as fact by many landowners, investors, politicians and state regulators – that shale gas is a potential economic “game-changer” for poor, rural upstate New York.
For the past four years, two governors have repeatedly extended the state’s de facto moratorium on fracking while they tinkered with the rules. Since last fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he is waiting for the results of a vaguely defined health study, frustrating pro-gas groups with his apparent lack of urgency.
But the four analysts now argue that it’s geology – not health – that best explains Cuomo’s foot-dragging. In the governor’s cost-benefit analysis, they say, meager potential economic gains from drilling are not worth the environmental and political risk.
“The vast majority of the New York Marcellus shale is too thin (less than 150 feet thick) and too shallow (less than 4,500 feet) to yield economically recoverable natural gas,” said Jerry Acton, a retired systems engineer for IBM and Lockheed Martin who based his conclusions on drilling production results from neighboring Pennsylvania, where fracking is allowed.
Acton crunched four years of publicly available data supplied to regulators by Pennsylvania drillers. His analysis covered all 1,539 active natural gas wells drilled into the Marcellus shale in six counties that border New York. Acton found that median production results for specific towns and counties correlate closely with the depth and thickness of the shale layer drilled. The deeper and thicker, the better
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