Total Petroleum Systems in the Appalachian Basin; Definitions, Datasets and Snapshots


Stakeholder Awareness and Knowledge are Prerequisites for Informed Decision-Making Regarding Oil and Gas Extraction

By Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH

Our New York consultant, Karen Edelstein, has recently put onto FracTracker’s DataTool a number ofdatasets regarding other potential oil and gas source rocks and formations in the AppalachianBasin. Most of the formations on which she has posted data are not being actively drilled andexploited; they, therefore, only represent future areas of interest for oil and gas companies.However, the Utica-Lower Paleozoic Total Petroleum System, (FracTracker Snapshot 1below), which is more extensive and thicker than the Marcellus and underlies the extentof the Marcellus Shale by 1800 ft in western New York State and 5000 ft in south-centralPennsylvania, has already shown an ability to support commercial production.
Since capitaland human infrastructure are already in place for the Marcellus shale extraction, such as pipelines, arrangements for water withdrawals for fracturing, lease agreements, drilling and fracture capacity, and arrangements for wastewater disposal and trucking, the Utica has infrastructure advantages that may allow its exploitation sooner than other Appalachian petroleum basins.Even areas of the Utica beyond the Marcellus, particularly in eastern Ohio and Ontario, Canada,have been drilled and assessed and appear capable of producing natural gas in commerciallyviable quantities.

Utica Shale-Lower Paleozoic TPS, Applachian Basin (small)
Fractracker Snapshot 1. The Utica Shale
Click on the image for a better view.

The Appalachian Basin covers New York,Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, western Maryland, eastern Kentucky, westernVirginia, eastern Tennessee, northwestern Georgia, and northeastern Alabama (USGS). Appalachian landowners, mineral rights owners, citizens, communities, environmental organizations, and state and local government units should becomefamiliar with the geographic boundaries of Assessment Units making up Total PetroleumSystems (TPS). Horizontal drilling and hydrofracturing advances may open more of these petroleumsystems to commercial exploitation. Stakeholder awareness and information is critical to assurethat knowledge and thus power is equally distributed between industry, government, andcitizens for balanced decision-making concerning questions related to: whether the resource shouldbe tapped, how the resource will be extracted, and what economic and environmental policiesshould guide resource use.

The Total Petroleum System is used by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in itsNational Assessment Project; an Assessment unit is the fundamental geologic unit for theevaluation of undiscovered oil and gas resources. The TPS is defined as thegeographic boundary of a known or postulated oil and or gas accumulation, which includes thesource rocks or formations, as well as a geologic interpretation of the essential elements andprocesses within the system that account for its source, generation, migration, accumulation,and trapping. The province geologist was required to defend the geologic boundaries andgeologic history of each TPS in a formal petroleum system review meeting.

The TPS within province 067, the Appalachian Basin, are listed below by TPS number and name. Each snapshot contains a more thorough description of the TPS once you click on it. FracTracker contains datasets for more assessment units within each TPS. Check back for additional articles on separate assessment units and maps.

Click on the images below for a better view.

Conasauga-Rome/Conasauga TPS, Applachian Basin  (small)
506701 – Conasauga-
Sevier-Knox/Trenton Total Petroleum System  (small)
506702 – Sevier-Knox/
Carboniferous Coal Bed Gas Deposits (small)
506705 – Carboniferous Coal Bed
Gas Deposits
Pottsville Coal-Bed gas deposits, Appalachian Basin  (small)
506706 – Pottsville Coal-Bed
Gas – More Info
Utica Shale-Lower Paleozoic TPS, Applachian Basin (small)
506703 – Utica Shale-Lower
Devonian Shale, Middle/Upper Paleozoic, Total Petroleum System, Appalachian Basin (small)
506704 – Devonian Shale,
Middle/Upper Paleozoic

The Devonian Shale-Middle and Upper Paleozoic TPS (shown above) includes the Marcellus Shale as well as other assessment units:

  • Northwestern Ohio Shale (NWOS) AU
  • Greater Big Sandy (GBS) AU
  • Siltstone And Shale (DSS) AU
  • Marcellus Shale AU
  • Catskill Sandstones and Siltstones AU
  • Berea Sandstone AU

This TPS is well described here.

The snapshot below shows the geographical extent of all Total Petroleum Basins in the Appalachian Basin and more in-depth information on the Devonian Shales. Click on the various buttons in the gray toolbar below the image to zoom and inspect this snapshot in closer detail: