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Technology Makes Gas Production A Possibility

The Floyd Shale is in the Black Warrior Basin which spans north Mississippi and Alabama.

Technology allows gas drilling operations to work horizontally after reaching a certain depth.

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY –Natural gas production could become a reality in North Mississippi due to advancements in horizontal well drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology, both of which are key in releasing gas from shale.

Shale gas is one of a number of “unconventional” sources of natural gas. The Floyd Shale is a black marine shale located in the subsurface of the Black Warrior Basin that covers a portion of both north Mississippi and Alabama. Yalobusha County is located within the basin directly over the shale.

“We’ve been looking in that part of Mississippi for the Floyd shale,” said Mike Walen, chief operating officer for Cabot Gas and Oil, an exploration and production company headquartered in Houston, Texas.

“We have drilled some wells looking for it,” Walen said, “and we’ve had some encouragement. We plan to drill a couple of more wells this year.”

Walen explained the process for releasing the gas. “We can fracture stimulate those wells. We pump in large amounts of water and we entrain sand in that water at high pressure. The water breaks down the rock and fractures it.”

“We keep pumping; we keep fracturing,” he continued. “The sand goes into that fracture. Then when the pressure is turned off the water flows out and the sand stays in place and then the rock is propped open. Then the gas is able to flow out of the shale.”

One of the planned wells will be the Williamson 33-11 No. 1 well located in Section 33 of Township 11 South, Range 4 West. The area is about four miles south of Water Valley near County Road 95 (Hopewell Road).

The Cabot Corp. is petitioning the Mississippi State Gas and Oil Board for authority to “force integrate” the 640 acre drilling unit. In simple terms, the board may require landowners and/or persons owning drilling rights to integrate their interests “for the prevention of waste or to avoid the drilling of unnecessary wells.”

That petition is on the agenda for the Oil and Gas Board’s meeting scheduled for April 16 at the Biloxi City Hall.

Cabot made a similar request to the board in November of 2007 when they petitioned to integrate all interests in a 640-acre gas unit, situated in Section 24, Township 11 South, Range 6 West, for the drilling of the Hairston Associates 24-11 No. 1 well. That location is west of Water Valley just south of Hwy. 32 near County Road 216.

Drilling has been completed there and at Cabot’s first Yalobusha site, the Weyerhaeuser Hilburn 15-6 No. 1 well located in Section 15, Township 25 North, Range 7 East in the Pine Valley area.

Both of these wells have been fitted with a collection of valves called a wellhead. And, both are capped which bars the entry of contaminants.

“Twenty years ago nobody would think about producing gas out of a shale,” Walen commented.

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