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Indybay Feature
North Coast Fracking, Mendocino and Humboldt County
by Tomas DiFiore
Friday Mar 14th, 2014 2:32 AM
The presence or absence of 'known' producible areal extents of hydrocarbons shifts, bounded by the historical and chronological use of available of technology, and the shifts in area operations due to asset maturity, unstable political climate, citizen actions, Legislative actions, and investments as detailed in a company's forward looking (SEC) profile and production portfolio.
Ongoing Presentations to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors

Also on March 12, 2014, a fine article by Will Parrish appeared in the AVA.
Fracking On The North Coast

I like the breadth of his writing. But three paragraphs, in the article included quotes by a petroleum geologist and I would like to expand on them, additional comments are numbered.

“For comparison’s sake, the US as a whole consumes 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, or 208 times as much as Tompkins Hill in the Eel River Basin (Natural Gas) produced in more than seven decades.”

1) Gauged from historic vertical shallow well production. The 2008 Humboldt EIR allows for 16 well pads, with 5 horizontal wells for each pad, gathering lines and a 6 or 10 inch delivery line crossing under the Eel River, with no depth restrictions. There's 2.5 Tcf offshore (2005), Chevron has wells on the Humboldt coast, and I think they can wait it out. Offshore are high-grade pure methane hydrates.

“Even in the more accessible areas around Bakersfield, initial attempts to exploit the Monterey shale have not shown much,” Estabrook told the AVA. “And the mangled-up geology of the coast range makes large scale deposition unlikely for any type of oil and gas, shales or otherwise.” Estabrook continued, “As far as I know, there are no known oil and gas deposits in Mendocino County, shale or conventional. Exploration and identification of deposits would take years (decades). If any deposits were found, they would have to be large-scale enough to justify the enormous costs of developing them, especially given the lack of oil and gas infrastructure here.”

Estabrook is probably right, oil and gas, together have never been actually produced in any commercial quantity anywhere in the inland portion of the County. But then for years now, industry has kept our focus on the Monterey Shale giving out all kinds of useless information one piece at a time.

And while it can be shown that there is no active production of conventional resources in Mendocino County, any recent exploratory well locations are confidential. Thus the potential for both horizontal or slant deviant drilling and multiple wells per pad combined with hydraulic fracturing in Mendocino County at some point in the future cannot be entirely ruled out. Technically feasible and economically viable approaches may be discovered by the oil and gas industry to tap the tight-gas and shale oil potential in the Franciscan formations, and interest in production could shift from the mature oil-rich resource areas in southern California to the un-associated gas-yielding formations in the northern parts of the State.

It also cannot be ignored, that the wells in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties are owned by the same Big Oil Corporate Petroleum Companies that own the lease-held agreements to production on tracts of lands in the States of Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Colorado and Kern. Bakersfield is more like a Corporate Park in the State of Kern and most of the north coast county wells are owned by Corporations with 2 addresses, one in Houston, and one in Bakersfield. Holdings in Bakersfield and throughout the Kern Oil Fields may change hands for flexible market viability and company survivability, but those same companies selling leased acres even in other Shale plays in other States, (to reduce debt load from expansion), have held onto ownerships in Northern California, and are expanding the lease-acres. Chevron, Vintage (OXY) and INNEX hold leases or own acreage in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties.

Exploration would not take years though. Exploration is ongoing. Production would likely shift quickly by virtue of market forces, nothing more. The corporations look at it from a global scale, where's the pay zone at? (resource availability, access to market, hub price, environmental laws, play production flows).

2) It took INNEX/FOREXCO/FOOTHILLS just 3 years in the ERB to complete 3D geologic images. Along the way they scooped up 12,000 acres of leases.

“Large scale deposition” is an interesting term. Development of tight-gas or dry-gas, on the North Coast will occur in tight-sand formations, not shales.

Unconventional production of natural gas is based on “tight gas” and “shale gas” fields. The distinction between the two is relatively minor (and technical). Shale gas is a description for a field in which natural gas is locked in tiny bubble-like pockets within layered sedimentary rock such as shale. Tight gas describes natural gas that is dispersed within low-porosity silt or sand areas that create a tight-fitting environment for the gas.

"If any deposits were found, they would have to be large-scale enough to justify the enormous costs of developing them, especially given the lack of oil and gas infrastructure here.”

3) Companies are fracking for oil and associated wet-gas, in the Monterey shale which extends south from San Joaquin County. The market has driven the production of wet gas over dry gas across the nation, for the NGLs. These same companies holding production interests in the ERB have experience in the eastern dry-gas plays and Colorado dry-gas plays (which have dropped in production and are all shallow plays compared to the ERB and the dry-gas fields from Sacramento to Butte County and Glen County where well depths exceed 15,000 feet regularly and even 19,000 feet). The companies have repositioned their assets, and holdings. The one constant though, is that these companies based in Houston and Bakersfield are holding onto their Northern California leases.
4) Companies are fracking for 'new' non-associated gas in the Kreyenhagen shale north of the Monterey shale with huge pays and even deeper wells. And then on up through the Sacramento Basin in deep tight-sands formations it's all horizontal wells.
5) Companies are fracking tight-sands (Stevenson, Anderson) at 10,000 feet of depth in Humboldt County, in the ERB.
6) Previous wells in Mendocino County were drilled mostly to less than 2,000 feet. One well, might have made it to 2500 feet. Most were 1500 feet or less.
7) Vintage/OXY is listed as owning land in Mendocino County with old wells. That's Vintage's specialty, reworks, new production from old wells, and mature fields.
8) What of the cluster of 'potential hydrocarbon plays' that come together and overlap (geologically) where southern Mendocino County, Lake County, and Sonoma County come together?
9) The lack of oil and gas infrastructure is a mute point. Dry-gas, as is found in the deep geologic tight-sands of the northern basins does not require separators. Dry-gas development would likely use gathering lines (not coming under the authority of the CPUC), a hub, and a powerplant to generate and export electricity - perhaps tied in with the electricity generated from the geysers that heads to Napa, Sonoma, and Marin. Waste would be handled onsite with UIC disposal wells. Frac fluids would be trucked in, proppants, etc.

This is all just 'New Technology Concepts' as described by industry and which includes Township drainage (forced integration or unitization, community pooling) and then, nothing leaves the site except marketable product.

Pay By Play Axiom Numero Uno

“A Township or Section with exploratory wells but no discovered accumulations is unlikely to have any undiscovered accumulations. This is probably true for sectors with several unsuccessful wells that drilled deep enough to penetrate economic basement. However, it may not be true for sectors that have been tested by only one well if that well was located along one edge or near a comer of the sector, was too shallow to test the entire thickness of prospective strata, or was improperly tested or completed.” (USGS)

Several wells have been drilled near Willits, California, with mixed results. The oldest, the Mendocino- Midway Oil Syndicate No. 1, was spudded in 1923; the well apparently penetrated fractured sandstone and shale of the Franciscan Complex, and was abandoned at total depth of 2,174 ft in 1925. Reportedly, this well encountered “a showing of gas and “slight traces of oily substance” from 800 ft to the bottom. The Jewel City Exploration Hi No. 1 spudded in “Plio-Pleistocene” strata, reached the top of the Franciscan at about 1,000 ft, and bottomed in Franciscan at total depth of 2,000 ft in 1962; shows of gas were reported from 530 ft to total depth.

Also in 1962, the Jewel City Smith No. 1 spudded in Franciscan rocks and reached total depth of 2,931 ft in the Franciscan; noncommercial shows of gas were found in hard shale and sandstone at several intervals from 723 to 2,475 ft. This well reportedly produced a total of 5 MCF of gas, all of which was blown into the air. In 1967, the Willits Oil and Gas Co. No. 1 spudded in the Franciscan and bottomed at total depth of 1,172 ft in hard, gray shale of the Franciscan; no shows of oil or gas were encountered.

Two wells were drilled near Ukiah, California, by W.C. Thompson Gas and Oil Exploration in 1959. Both appear to have spudded in unnamed nonmarine deposits of Pliocene and (or) Pleistocene age, but almost no geological information is available from either well. The Ukiah No. 1, drilled to total depth of 876 ft, reportedly “tested some gas and considerable water” and was later converted to a water well. The Ukiah No. 2, drilled to total depth of 630 ft, reported shows of both oil and gas but was converted to a water well.

Ban Fracking in California, Ban Fracking in Mendocino County
Farming and Fracking Are Not Compatible

Tomas DiFiore

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