Advocates for drilling for natural gas in the Triassic Sanford Sub-Basin commonly use 1.7 trillion cubic feet of gas as the amount recoverable. That could be the case if every cubic foot of gas was squeezed out of the black organic shale.
However, only about 5 percent is actually recoverable in situations as this. Even in areas such as North Dakota where the Bakken Shale is being exploited, with some 70 companies using the most modern techniques, only 3 to 6 percent is recovered. Applying the 5 percent to the 1.7 trillion cubic feet indicates that only 0.085 trillion cubic feet are recoverable.
At the current price of $4 per million BTU and with the glut of gas on the market, drilling does not make economic sense. Why drill?
Two new pipelines are planned to bring gas from the Marcellus Shale of West Virginia and Pennsylvania to North Carolina. These companies apparently sense that our state will not produce much, if any, of our own gas.
The Marcellus, at 5 percent recovery, still has 5 trillion cubic feet available. The Utica Shale, in the same region, is much more extensive and is just beginning to be exploited. The USGS estimates that it contains 38 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, plus oil and mature gas liquids. Presumably, the same pipelines will be used. Why drill?
Daniel A. Textoris
Emeritus professor of geology, UNC-Chapel Hill