Reprinted From : http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=248&dept_id=505345&newsid=20214829&PAG=461&rfi=9
What can rightfully be called a "gas rush" has been triggered, and all over the Northeast the search is on. This is bound to be controversial so, before we go too far, let's get something straight. I am a geologist, and one thing we do is to work to keep you from freezing to death in a cave. So, I am not necessarily opposed to all this, but let's talk about the science of the Marcellus. A very good geological story lies across the river.
It all started nearly 400 million years ago when something you might be tempted to call Europe collided with what eventually became North America. You probably, somewhere along the line, learned about plate tectonics. If you remember some of that, then you will understand the following: The crustal plate collision initiated an uplift which, given time, would produce a great New England mountain range called the Acadians. Our focus is on the early stages of that collision. There were mountains, but they were not yet very tall. Critically, there was also developing a nearby deep oceanic basin. At its maximum it might have been thousands of feet deep. It covered what now makes up much of the northeastern United States.
Humans have visited modern versions of such environments. In recent decades we have developed the deep-sea equipment to do so. What was once a great mystery is relatively well known today. It is not the least bit unusual for such a marine basin to be very stagnant. There are few, if any, currents that far down. The rising nearby mountains were still so small that they supplied very little sediment to the deep. That's important.
Raining down from above were bits and pieces of dead organisms and this biological material came to make up a very sizable portion of the Marcellus sediment. The abyss was so stagnant that whatever oxygen that might have been there was consumed by microbes. Over long periods of time, the resulting stagnant, anoxic seafloor accumulated, thick sequences of organic-rich, fine-grained sediment. A lot of the biologic matter became the gas methane and that formed the bulk of the natural gas that would be coveted by humans hundreds of millions of years later.
And hence the great interest in the Marcellus. There is no Marcellus on the eastern side of the Hudson, but if you would like to see the unit; it's not that far away. Cross the river on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and take Route 23 to Route 9W south. Just before Kingston, bear right onto Route 209 south (Ellenville) and go about 1.5 miles to the top of the hill, where you will see an enormous outcropping of black shale. This is the eastern equivalent of the Marcellus
Stand along the side of a highway, listen to the traffic, and realize that this was once the deepest, darkest part of the sea. All around you it was once a silent abyss. Think about that when you are there.
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