In a discussion about the fine points of the Marcellus Shale in the Upper Delaware Valley, professor Terry Engelder said, “I wish it would make Narrowsburg rich, but it’s not going to.” In this region that assessment will be met with a mix of glee, disappointment and skepticism.
Engelder is a Professor of Geosciences at Pennsylvania State University and one of the foremost experts on the subject.
In a phone interview on April 22, he remarked specifically about the chances of successful drilling in Wayne and Pike counties in Pennsylvania and Sullivan in New York.
He said, “Maybe the northwestern corner of Wayne County will work, but certainly Pike County is off the table, and to the best of my knowledge, there’s a huge probability that Sullivan County is off the table.”
He added that drillers will likely never be interested in drilling in most of the watershed that drains into the New City reservoirs because there is no recoverable gas there. Also, most of the Delaware River Basin will not be affected by drilling.
However, the northwestern reaches of the basin, in Delaware and a bit in Broome Counties in New York, as well as some part of Wayne, may likely be impacted, if and when the Delaware River Basin Commission and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation each finish their task of formulating drilling rules.
Engelder’s projections about the location of likely drilling in the future is not much different than the view put forward by the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance and various other landowner groups and organizations in a press release in early March.
The organizations published a map with a line that ran started near Waymart, ran just north of Bethany and continued to the Upper Delaware River near Milanville. In New York, the line continued through Cochecton, into Jeffersonville or perhaps just north of it, through Youngsville and south of Livingston Manor.
He agreed that his approximations were similar to those and said the people who created that boundary understand the geology of the shale, and that is not going to change. He said the exact boundary, however, of has not been firmly established and may shift a bit as the drilling companies continue to explore the issue.
He explained the geological forces that determine whether gas will occur in recoverable quantity in the shale or not. In order for sufficient gas to have been created, there needs to be a certain amount of organic matter in the rock. If the pressure and heat were too intense hundreds of millions of years ago, much of the gas could have been “cooked” away.
But he said, perhaps an even more important factor was that the rock that makes up the shale in the area around Narrowsburg likely was exposed to too much “clastic material,” meaning essentially sandstone and clay, which washed out or diluted the organic material. So, Engelder said, “right from day one the rock was not rich enough to serve as a reservoir” for the gas.