Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
Upstate New York might not sit on one of the largest natural gas reserves in the world after all. That's according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geologic Survey.
The USGS examined production data supplied by New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, and concluded that the Marcellus Shale holds 84 trillion cubic feet of “recoverable” gas. That's 80 percent less than an earlier estimate made by the Department of Energy.
The USGS’ task leader for the study, James Coleman, said about a dozen geologists, engineers and map specialists worked together for a year to come up with the number. The discrepancy with the DoE’s figure of 410 trillion cubic feet came as a big surprise.
“We sat there and looked at the number and said, ‘Hmmm, that's not what we expected,’” Coleman said. “But it was a number that we agreed to agree to. No one left unhappy. People went through various stages of amusement, bewilderment, intrigue — all sorts of nifty words we threw out to express how we felt at completion of this.”
Coleman added he will spend the next weeks comparing DoE and USGS calculations.
The study could be a sign of trouble for natural gas drillers. New York's Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, recently subpoenaed documents in a probe of whether energy companies misled shareholders with overly optimistic assessments of gas reserves.