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What Is The Haynesville Shale?
The Haynesville Shale is a rock formation containing oil and gas lying approximately 10,500 to 13,000 feet sub-surface in northwest Louisiana and East Texas. It is also called the Bossier shale in some places. Some geologists classify the two as the same but it is now largely established that the Bossier shale is separate and distinct, lying in the upper part of the Haynesville shale. Sub-surface, the formations dip southward toward the Gulf Of Mexico; thus, the formation is found deeper the further south oil and gas wells are drilled.
Shale is sometimes called mudstone but mudstone, typically, does not have the laminations that shale does. Shale is very "tight," meaning it has little permeability, a measure of the rock's ability to allow a liquid or gas to pass through it. Usually, shales have low porosity; however, the Haynesville shale's porosity has been surprisingly higher than other shales. The higher the porosity a rock formation has, the more oil or gas its pore spaces can contain.
[ The photo above is not from the Haynesville shale but of the Green River oil shale; however it will give you an idea of the type of rock. Note the minute horizontal bands, indicating the carbon-rich kerogen layers. Kerogen is a precursor to oil and gas. ]
Shales were deposited millions of years ago, usually in a deep ocean environment. (Some oil shales were deposited in deep inland lakes.) Fine silt particles and countless trillions of life forms settled to the depths. Over millions of years, this mud gets pushed progressively deeper by the overburden of the layers being deposited on top, deeper and deeper until it finally turns into rock. Rock containing carbon from the dead sea or lake life. Over millions of years, this carbon is subjected to heat and pressure and became oil and natural gas.
Oil and gas have largely been a 20th century discovery, meaning widespread exploitation of the resource. Prior to the discovery that organic shales could produce gas in commercial quantities, reservoir rock was considered to be of three primary types: sandstone, limestone and dolomite. Shale was the "inferior" rock you drilled through to get to a good rock. (A good rock being one with good porosity and good permeability.) That all changed in the 80s with the development of a completion technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
Another shale, the Barnett shale, near Fort Worth, Texas has proven to be productive and commercial in some areas. Hydraulic frac techniques in the Barnett are largely attributed to George Mitchell of Mitchell Energy, oil and gas producer. Over many years, many failures and many millions spent, Mitchell proved that the "sorry" shale rock could produce gas in commercial quantities.
There are now several oil shales and gas shales finding favor in the USA. An area of interest to oil and gas companies is called a "play," thus a shale area of interest is called a shale play. Another Texas shale play is known as the Eagle Ford shale play. Mineral rights owners are now enjoying a nice cash payday there. For more info, see Eagle Ford shale mineral rights info.
In the period 2006-2008, companies began drilling and attempting completions in the Haynesville shale from East Texas to North Louisiana. Several wells produced favorable results. Now, some feel that the Haynesville will prove to be a great producer of natural gas in the ark-la-tex. Many companies are actively buying leases. Time will tell if the Haynesville shale turns out to be a bomb or a bust.
The city of Haynesville is in Claiborne Parish, Louisiana and many landowners in Claiborne Parish think that the Haynesville shale must certainly be productive there; after all, it's called the Haynesville shale! This in a misnomer. See, geological formations are named in one of two ways. One method is to name it for the geologist who "discovered" the formation. The other way is to name it for the town near which it was discovered. In this case, it was discoverd decades ago near the town of Haynesville, Louisiana. Thus, it has nothing to do with the Haynesville shale play. At this time, most geologists feel that the Haynesville shale will not be productive in Claiborne Parish. Or at least, not most of it.
Another important point is that as we move north throughout north Louisiana, the Haynesville formation becomes interbedded with sandstone along the Arkansas-Louisiana border. This also occurs moving west into East Texas. (Current thinking is that this is not a good thing for Haynesville shale production.) The Haynesville is productive in some parts of Claiborne Parish. But it's not the same thing. The Haynesville shale is valued much higher than the Haynesville sand.
Haynesville shale oil and gas production is "unconventional." Conventional production is that produced from sandstone, limestone or dolomite reservoir rock, typically from a vertical wellbore. Unconventional oil plays include oil shale, the Canadian tar sands and Venezuela's super-heavy oil. None of these are pumped to the surface; other techniques, such as mining and heating are required to extract the oil. With the Haynesville shale, getting the gas out in commercial quantities requires horizontal drilling, a very expensive process. Wells cost in excess of $9 million each!
The Haynesville shale field is yet to be fully defined but it is one of the largest gas fields in the world! That's quite a tall statement and let's hope it turns out to be true. For reference, a few years ago, before the "shale revolution," these were the top 10 gas fields worldwide.
1, South Pars/North Dome, Iran and Qatar
2, Urengoy, Russia
3, Yamburg, Russia
4, Haynesville Shale, USA (LA-TX)
5, Hassi R’Mel, Algeria
6, Shtokman, Russia
7, Zapolyarnoye, Russia
8, Hugoton, USA (TX-OK-KS)
9, Groningen, Netherlands
10, Bonavenko, Russia
For information about leasing land for oil and gas drilling or selling mineral rights in north Louisiana, East Texas and other parts of the ark-la-tex, visit the links below.