Three NY State Counties Along Border with PA Will be Focal Point for Marcellus Drilling According to Experts

Three New York State counties that sit on the border with Pennsylvania will likely be the first, and biggest beneficiaries of Marcellus Shale drilling when it finally begins in New York. Those counties are Broome, Tioga and Chemung. That prediction comes from two of the most prominent geologists in the Marcellus Shale:

Terry Engelder and Gary Lash, geologists whose calculations have been credited with helping spur the natural gas rush in Pennsylvania, said a three-county area of the Southern Tier holds the most promise amid the 18,700 square miles of New York covered by the Marcellus Shale.

"There are certain geologic parameters that determine the economic qualities of gas shale," said Engelder, a professor at Pennsylvania State University. "In New York state, the combination of these parameters is optimal under Broome, Tioga and Chemung counties."

Those geologic qualities include the depth, thickness, core pressure and organic richness of the portion of the Marcellus that lies about 3,000 to 5,000 feet below the surface.

"I think Broome County — especially the southern half of Broome County — holds a lot of promise," Lash said. "The Marcellus is deep and it’s quite thick. It borders on Susquehanna County, where there’s been a lot of success."

Lash said the depth of the formation — which rises as it moves north from the Pennsylvania border — is a large determinant of the productivity of the drilling operations.

"The greater the depth is, the higher the pressure and the more gas is retained," he explained.

The depth is greatest in New York along the state’s border with Pennsylvania.

The Southern Tier borders a corridor of three Pennsylvania counties — Susquehanna, Bradford and Tioga — that accounted for more than half of the Marcellus wells drilled in the state last year, according to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection data.*

Will New York be the new Pennsylvania when it comes to the Marcellus? Probably not:

Engelder said drilling in New York isn’t likely to match the productivity of its southern neighbor.

"That’s largely because the geological parameters are even better in Pennsylvania than in New York," he said. "But nevertheless, I think that those three counties in southern New York State will benefit greatly."*

And what about the other 26 counties where the Marcellus Shale is present? Engelder says drillers will experiment out from the focal point of Broome, Tioga and Chemung to find the best results.

MDN points out the Utica Shale is the unknown wildcard. Drilling in the Utica may ramp up in counties where the Marcellus is not as productive. Just two days ago MDN noted Norse Energy was the first driller in the state to file an application for a permit to drill in the Utica Shale (see this MDN story). Norse believes the Utica may outperform the Marcellus in much of New York State.

Bottom line, when drilling does begin, Broome, Tioga and Chemung counties will be busy.

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Jul 28, 2011) – Broome, Tioga, Chemung expected to be the big beneficiaries from Marcellus drilling