In order to best preserve and manage our energy and natural resources we must understand the relationships between these resources and the impacts of their development. To further this understanding the U.S. Geological Survey is studying unconventional continuous-type and, to a lesser extent, conventional oil and gas accumulations and the environmental impacts associated with their development. Continuous-type gas accumulations are generally characterized by low matrix permeabilities, large areal extents, and no distinct water contacts. This basin scale map shows the overall extent of these accumulations and the general land use types that may be impacted by their development.
The Appalachian Basin has the longest history of oil and gas exploration and production in the United States. Since Drake's Titusville discovery well was drilled in 1859, oil and gas has been continuously produced in the basin. While there is still a great deal of oil and gas production, new field discoveries are rare and relatively small. For most of the second half of the 20th century the Appalachian basin has been considered a mature petroleum province because most of the large plays have already been discovered and developed.
One exception to this trend is the Lower Silurian Clinton Sands and Medina Group Gas play which is being developed in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. This continuous-type gas play has been expanding since the early 1970's (see inset maps). In the 1980's economic incentives such as large increases in wellhead prices further stimulated continuous-type gas resource development.
Continuous-type gas plays can be large in areal extent and in thickness. 'Sweetspots' (areas of greater prodcution) are hard to predict and generally associated with better than average permeabilities, and enhanced by natural fracture systems. With an overall success rate often approaching 90%, drilling most of the play with closely spaced wells is often the best way to maximize gas recovery.
Some positive economic characteristics associated with the development of these continuous-type accumulations are high success rates, low drilling and development costs, and low water production, which results in low water disposal costs. Large areas within the Appalachian basin with good potential for this type of gas accumulation remain to be tested. Positive environmental characteristics include, a clean energy source, low water production, and relatively low surface impact.
Some negative characteristics associated with these continuous -type accumulations are low individual well production rates and small well drainage area. Negative environmental characteristics are primarily related to the dense well spacing used to develop the resource to its full potential. Often negative environmental impacts such as surface disturbance can be greatly reduced. The number of well sites can be decreased by using a single centrally located surface location and associated facilities for several directionally or horizonatally drilled wells. This also minimizes the transportation infrastructure (access roads and pipelines) required to maintain the wells and deliver the gas. Visual impacts can be reduced by selecting well locations visible only over short distances.
While the prospective area is large, potential decreases basin- ward and toward the northeast and southwest. These areas are represented by the lower potential plays 6727, 6730, and 6731.
The U.S. Geological Survey landuse and landcover data was derived from USGS 1:250,000 and 1:100,000 scale maps. This information was collected between the mid 1970s to mid 1980s. The land use and land cover data was mapped and coded using the Anderson classification system (Anderson, 1975) which is a hierarchical system of general (level 1) to more specific (level 2) characterization. Level 1 characterization was used for this map; the land use and land cover designations are displayed below in the Explanation.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
The Areal Extent of Continuous Type Gas Accumulations in Lower Silurian Clinton Sands and Medina Group Sandstones of the Appalachian Basin and the Environments Affected by Their Development