January 01, 2012

Fugitive Emissions: The Marcellus Shale and the Clean Air Act

Joseph Minott and Jonathan Skinner

The Marcellus Shale is an organic-rich, black shale formation spanning 95,000 square miles and extending from New York into Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia at a depth of 4,000–8,500 feet with an average thickness of 50–200 feet. Like many gas shale formations, or shale plays, the Marcellus Shale is both a source and a reservoir for significant reserves of natural gas. As recently as 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy reported that the Marcellus Shale contains an estimated 1,500 trillion cubic feet (cf) of natural gas reserves from which 262 trillion cf is currently recoverable through unconventional horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. U.S. Dep’t. of Energy, Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer, at 17 (2009). This makes the Marcellus Shale potentially the largest U.S. natural gas reserve and twice as rich as the second most abundant shale play in the United States—good news for energy independence and security. And when burned, natural gas releases fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases than traditional fossil fuels.

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