Geologist shares Piceance gas findings |

Geologist shares Piceance gas findings

USGS scientist Sarah Hawkins, lead scientist for the Mancos Shale assessment, examines a core drilled for the study she led.
Joshua Hicks / U.S. Geological Survey |

Interest was at a peak Thursday as a record crowd at the Northwest Colorado Oil and Gas Forum heard from the geologist whose report last summer said natural gas reserves in the Mancos Shale of the Piceance Basin far exceed previous estimates.

With over 100 people in attendance, Sarah Hawkins of the U.S. Geological Survey described her findings that the area encompassing much of Garfield County contains roughly 40 times more natural gas than estimated in 2003.

While she declined to speculate, when asked by a person in the audience whether the findings would create a boom for the industry, her research indicates that the Piceance Basin contains an estimated 66 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 74 million barrels of shale oil and 45 million barrels of natural gas liquids, making it one of the largest natural gas fields in North America. The previous USGS assessment of the area estimated 1.6 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas.

“I had read the report before we invited her and found it really interesting because I think a lot of people were under the impression that the Piceance had been depleted when in fact there’s a lot more potential,” said Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn. “We may just be at the tip of the iceberg.”

Since 2003, more than 2,000 wells have been drilled within the Mancos Shale of the Piceance, providing Hawkins additional data with which to make her assessment. In addition, the USGS Energy Resources Program drilled a research well in the southern Piceance Basin that provided significant new geologic and geochemical data that were used to refine the 2003 assessment.

With better information and improved technology at her disposal, she reassessed the gas levels in the area in her June 2016 study found on the USGS website.

What activity follows the findings remains to be seen, but Wynn believes that the forum provided a great opportunity for the community to get information on a topic that should be of great interest. At the very least, Hawkins highlighted that there is a huge potential economic resource beneath Garfield County.

“The one thing that is clear is that interest in the potential of the Piceance from the community was evident from the attendance we had at the forum today,” Wynn said. “Attendance today was double what it ever has been.”

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