The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Play

Penn State

The Marcellus shale has been quoted as the largest unconventional natural gas reservoir in the nation. New stories about the Utica, the Bakken, and the Eagle Ford soon joined the ranks . The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale play is a rising star in the list of unconventional plays in the US.

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Formation

The Tuscaloosa Marine Shale  (TMS) is found across central Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi. Approximately 90 million years ago, shortly after the time the Eagle Ford Shale was forming, organic-rich materials were deposited in the Gulf Coast region. This marine rich shale section can be found between the sands of the upper and lower Tuscaloosa section. 

In the 1997 Bulletin from the Basin Research Institute, the TMS  was cited to have potential reserves of 7 billion barrels of oil in a 5900 square mile area.  The TMS can be found  10,000 to 15,000 feet deep, and it varies in thickness from 500 to 800 feet.

Current players in the TMS are Goodrich Petroleum, Comstock Resources, Sanchez Energy, Encana, and Halcón Resources. Positives of the play are sufficient water sources, existing pipeline and refinery infrastructure, proximity to market, lower royalties and attractive lease terms.  Goodrich Petroleum has found initial production results very positive and improving.  With time, best management practices will aid in refining the process and driving the price down for drilling a well, initially priced at approximately $13 million.  Goodrich Petroleum’s well, Crosby 12H-1 has  cumulatively produced 180,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) by its 15th month. 

As the TMS play proves commercially viable and production levels increase, investments will be needed to expand, upgrade or even repurpose the existing midstream infrastructure. In addition, community infrastructure related to issues such as housing and labor will that to be addressed in the region as development of the play moves forward.