News&Observer: North Carolina’s natural-gas reserves may be significantly less than early estimates

The Raleigh News&Observer reports that natural-gas reserves in North Carolina may be a fraction of what’s been estimated recently:

Fracking was originally billed as the golden key to unlocking a 40-year supply of natural gas and reversing North Carolina’s dependency on other states for energy. Proponents said it was the state’s ticket to an economic revival and newfound status as an energy supplier.

Now with the state legislature poised to pass laws allowing fracking, estimates for North Carolina’s natural gas supplies are more modest: closer to an amount that’s equivalent to about five years of the state’s natural gas use.

“There were wildly optimistic early predictions, I’ll say it that way,” said assistant state geologist Kenneth Taylor. “We started off with colleagues in energy companies telling us, ‘This is how much you have.’ ” …

State geologists now believe the only safe assumption is that the gas is concentrated around Lee, Moore and Chatham counties. …

Taylor said that extrapolating the well data over the entire 1,226-square mile area of the Triassic basins, which run through the state’s mid-section, would mean that North Carolina has about 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That factors in the areas that either lack gas or are not safe for drilling.

Even if this maximum potential panned out, it would represent less than 1 percent of 273 trillion cubic feet of the nation’s proven gas reserves. …

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