USGS: Main natural gas basin would supply NC 5.6 years
by Anna Oakes
The USGS released an assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources for five East Coast Mesozoic basins.
The largest identified basin in North Carolina, the Deep River Basin, stretches 150 miles from Durham to the South Carolina border. The basin is estimated to contain 1,660 billion cubic feet of gas and 83 million barrels of natural gas liquids, the USGS said.
“Based on the 2010 average daily natural gas consumption volume in North Carolina of 811 million cubic feet per day, the USGS mean estimate of 1.66 trillion cubic feet could meet the state's natural gas demand for 5.6 years,” the report said.
The Dan-River-Danville Basin, which straddles the North Carolina and Virginia border and comes within a few miles north of Winston-Salem, is the closest identified basin in the state to Watauga County.
“For the Dan River-Danville Basin, the mean undiscovered resources are 49 billion cubic feet of gas and no natural gas liquids” — enough to meet the state's natural gas demand for 60 days,” the assessment said.
The report was released the day before the N.C. Senate passed Senate Bill 820, the “Clean Energy and Economic Security Act,” which authorizes horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and directs a new Mining and Energy Commission to oversee and develop regulations for natural gas drilling in North Carolina. The bill passed 29-19.
The bill stipulates that the commission will be composed of nine appointed voting members, of which seven are representatives of the mining, oil and gas industry and two have experience in environmental conservation or mitigation.
The bill now goes to the N.C. House for consideration and on Wednesday was referred to the House Committee on Environment.
Earlier this spring, a report issued by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources said hydraulic fracturing for natural gas can be done safely in the state with the correct standards in place, but that more information is needed.
“DENR believes that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely as long as the right protections are in place,” the report's executive summary said. “A number of states have experienced problems associated with natural gas exploration and development because the appropriate measures were not in place from the beginning — forcing both the state and the industry to react after damage had already been done.”
Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling a well vertically and then horizontally into the shale formation. The natural gas production company perforates the well and then pumps fracturing fluid (composed of 98 to 99.5 percent sand and water plus chemical additives) into the well under pressure to fracture the shale.
Hydraulic fracturing requires between 3 million and 5 million gallons of water per well, the report said. However, based on informed assumptions, “there appear to be adequate surface water supplies to meet the needs of the industry” in the Sanford subbasin of the Deep River Basin, the report said.