The state is quietly taking the next steps to study the potential for gas drilling in a Southeast Pennsylvania formation known as the South Newark Basin.
The basin stretches from New Jersey down into Southeast Pennsylvania in Bucks and Montgomery Counties where there is currently a moratorium on drilling.
The Intelligencer reports the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources awarded a contract to Penn State University to study the basin, including a summary of all publicly available scientific data. The contract began on July 1 and lasts through June 30, 2015, according to The Intelligencer. The drilling moratorium is in place until 2018 to give the DCNR time to conduct the study.
According to information recently obtained through a series of right-to-know requests, a study of the South Newark Basin was tucked into a much larger study measuring earthquake activity across Pennsylvania.
As part of a 15-year federal program, a team of science-based organizations are placing a dense network of both permanent and temporary seismographs across the continental United States. The seismographs measure earthquake activity. The program began in California and has gradually moved east.
Last year, the program included a small portion of Pennsylvania for the first time. This year and next year, seismographs will cover a vast majority of the state, according to a geologist who is close to the situation. This person asked not to be identified.
On July 1, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gave Penn State the task of monitoring 21 seismograph stations across the state. As part of that contract, the university also must issue a report on the geological structure of the South Newark Basin in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
It will include a map of the sediment thickness derived from seismic data and recommendations about key geographical surveys and data analyses needed to complete a more in-depth assessment of Pennsylvania’s portion of the South Newark Basin.
The total estimated cost of the earthquake and South Newark Basin study is $269,000. It will be funded 100 percent by the state.
Last June, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report estimating the South Newark Basin could yield between 363 billion cubic feet and 1,698 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Compared to USGS estimates of 84 trillion cubic feet in the Marcellus Shale, it is a much smaller formation.