Barnett Shale

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Barnett Shale: An Aerial View

The Barnett Shale is a geological formation of sedimentary rocks with oil and gas resources. The productive part of the formation is estimated to stretch from the city of Dallas west and south, covering 5,000 square miles (13,000 km²) and 18 counties.[1] In contrast to older shale gas plays, such as the Antrim Shale, the New Albany Shale, and the Ohio Shale, the Barnett Shale completions are much deeper (up to 8,000 feet). The thickness of the Barnett varies from 100 to 1000 feet, but most economic wells are located where the shale is between 300 and 600 feet thick. The success of the Barnett has spurred exploration of other deep shales for more deposits.

By mid-2012 the Barnett had produced 10 tcf of gas, accounting for approximately 50% of all modern shale gas production.[2]

The Barnett Shale contains estimated mean volumes of 53 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an updated assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey. This estimate is for undiscovered, technically recoverable resources.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 2015 that the Barnett Shale contains recoverable mean volumes of 53 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids. This estimate is double the 2003 USGS assessment. The 2003 estimate relied took in account only vertical drilling, and did not account for horizontal.[3]



The first Barnett Shale well was completed in 1981 in Wise County, Texas.[4] Drilling expanded greatly in the early 2000s due to higher natural gas prices and use of horizontal wells to increase production. Texas Shale Forum

In 2007, the Barnett shale (Newark East) gas field produced 1.11 cubic feet of gas, making it the second-largest source of natural gas in the United States.[5]

Methane pollution

In July 2015 a two year study sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund reported that fracking in the Barnett Shale region of Texas was releasing at least 50 percent more methane from drilling operations than the EPA has estimated.[6]

After the Environmental Defense Fund completed the statistical analysis of their study December 2015, the organization upgraded that 50 percent figure to 90 percent.[7]

Toxics detected near playgrounds across Barnett Shale

In September 2014, it was reported:

Independent air tests at five separate playgrounds across the Barnett Shale have revealed hazardous chemicals associated with oil and gas development at all five. At three of the playgrounds, carcinogens were present at levels exceeding TCEQ’s long-term ambient limits.[8]



  1. "The Barnett Shale," Railroad Commission of Texas, accessed Oct 2013.
  2. Bill Powers, Cold Hungry and in the Dark, NSP, 2013.
  3. "USGS Estimates 53 Trillion Cubic Feet of Gas Resources in Barnett Shale" U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, December 17, 2015.
  4. Scott R. Reevbasins invigorate U.S. gas shales play, 22 Jan. 1996, p.53-58.
  5. US Energy Information Administration: Is U.S. natural gas production increasing?, Accessed 20 March 2009.
  6. "Methane from fracking is probably more of a problem than EPA thinks" John Light, Grist, July 8, 2015.
  7. "Texas Fracking Zone Emits 90% More Methane Than EPA Estimated" Lisa Song, Inside Climate News, December 7, 2015.
  8. "Oil & Gas Toxics Detected Near Playgrounds across the Barnett Shale" TXSHARON, September 30, 2014.

Related SourceWatch articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Barnett Shale. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.