Frac’ing banned in Delaware River Basin… So what?

Guest “one word away from real news” by David Middleton

If this was about the Delaware Basin, this wouldn’t be fake news.

The Delaware River Basin Commission followed the lead of Vermont in banning hydraulic fracturing (frac’ing) in a place where there is neither any oil & gas production, nor any significant hydrocarbon potential.

Delaware River Basin Commission bans fracking

by: Varvara Budetti

Posted: Feb 25, 2021

WEST TRENTON, NEW JERSEY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has finalized a rule banning high-volume hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, in the basin.

The Delaware River Basin extends much of the length of Eastern Pennsylvania.


PA Home Page

Here’s a map of Pennsylvania oil & gas wells and the Delaware River Basin:

Pennsylvania Oil & Gas wells (PA DEP) and Delaware River Basin (PA Home Page)

The two main “shale” plays in Pennsylvania are the Marcellus (Devonian) and the Utica (Ordovician) formations.

Marcellus/Utica stratigraphic column (

If you open up the image below and zoom in on the Marcellus and Utica plays, it might appear that some of the Utica play does fall into the Delaware River Basin.

Lower 48 “Shale” Plays (EIA)

However, looks can be deceiving. The image below is a structure map on the top of the Utica formation. The shading indicates thermal maturity: Light green is oil prone, pink is wet gas prone, orange is dry gas prone and light violet is over-mature (the rocks cooked too long). The tan areas are where Ordovician rocks outcrop at the surface.

Utica Gas/Oil Play Map (EIA)

The Delaware River forms the boundary between Pennsylvania and New York, New Jersey and Delaware. The vast majority of the Delaware River Basin is east of the Utica (Ordovician) outcrops.

Geologic Map of Pennsylvania (PA DCNR). Click to enlarge.

Marcellus and Utica prospectivity ends rather abruptly at a series of thrust (reverse) faults, related to the Alleghanian Orogeny. The Marcellus is no longer present on the up-thrown (east) side of the thrust faults, it was eroded away a long time ago. The older Utica does outcrop east of the hanging wall, exposed on the limbs of a breached anticline. This cross-section tells the story, but it is too complicated to post as an image.. The schematic cross-section below provides a general picture:


The frac’ing ban in the Delaware River Basin is rated as fake news. It would have been fracking hilarious fake news if these Democrat idiots thought they had actually banned frac’ing in the Delaware Basin.

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March 3, 2021 6:07 am

So, virtual signaling and little else. Perhaps you should do a quick survey and then ask for grant money to tell these Chicken Littles other places were there is no gas/oil so they can ban it in them, too!

Reply to  2hotel9
March 3, 2021 7:23 am

No doubt the usual trolls will start citing these bans as proof that frakk’ing is politically unpopular in the entire US.

Reply to  2hotel9
March 3, 2021 9:53 am

The downside is that it gives them confidence…

Reply to  2hotel9
March 3, 2021 10:21 am

Typical politicians, “I’m doing something about it” (whatever it is) while doing nothing that actually has any effect.

It lets them run on a “record” of “doing something” while whatever the “problem” is continues to be a “problem”, so they can keep promising to “do more”.

Reply to  2hotel9
March 3, 2021 9:23 pm

Somehow virtue signaling bothers me. First there is no virtue if what is done is not a real virtue, and its not signaling as much it is a prelude to past, present, or future abrogation of our rights.
Perhaps something like “we are coming after you” or “we are after you”.

dodgy geezer
March 3, 2021 6:39 am

Just wait until a green commercial reason for fracking there is discovered – geothermal, perhaps, or CO2 storage…. and the politicians will be falling over themselves to reverse their position…

Reply to  dodgy geezer
March 3, 2021 7:07 am

David’s right. N’gonna happen. So is 2hotel9, re. virtue signalling.

Fight fraccing per se is silly. It’s already death spiraling. Just make them do it correctly, with:

  1. Only emergent and underbalance methane releases.
  2. Closed systems, full haz waste cleanup.
  3. Actual $ squirreled away for asset retirement costs a big step above those we’re used to from non spaghetti, hydraulically competent, wells.
  4. No more transport of light distillates in ol’ timey rail cars.

Even with being allowed to communize AGW costs onto the rest of us, fraccing would mostly go away on it’s own and the DoI would still have the lease boni.

Reply to  bigoilbob
March 3, 2021 7:24 am

I see Bob still insists on inventing his own facts.

Reply to  bigoilbob
March 3, 2021 8:45 am

Apparently BOB, you aren’t mentally or emotionally equipped to live in a civilized society.

With billions of people on this planet, it takes an enormous amount of energy to raise the standard of living to be as grand as it is today as opposed to all of human history where people lived in extreme poverty and died young.

So while you whine about imaginary problems, and fantasize about an anthropomorphized environment, there are certain costs that come with gains in human flourishing. And you are against them all.

You aren’t going to be able to make plastics, medicine, fertilizer, or thousands of other products with wind and solar – civilization requires petroleum products from economically sound sources.

But what is worse, is that you are not only ungrateful, but have contempt for all of the advancements in petroleum and energy production, without which, your life would be short, painful and characterized as miserable and impoverished.

That model trainset in your basement just doesn’t translate into a reality based world.

Reply to  AWG
March 3, 2021 10:39 am

I’m curious – are there ANY “climate” activists from countries that are NOT energy-rich?

Reply to  AWG
March 4, 2021 4:06 am

Wind and solar are 100% dependent on petroleum. No oil? No solar or wind.

Reply to  bigoilbob
March 3, 2021 11:26 am

Great to see you advocating COAL yet again, greasy blob !

Reply to  bigoilbob
March 3, 2021 12:26 pm

I really like #3. Lets make it universal for all forms of energy production including wind and solar to set aside the total land recovery costs in the first 2 years of production. No government subsidies allowed.

Better yet, make sure all above ground portions down to 50 feet below natural soil level must be RECYCLED. Oil and gas, no problem, Wind and solar, impossible. Just imagine the cost to remove the massive concrete foundations for the modern windmills. Require their removal within 1 year of no longer being productive. Ex; In Tehachapi, CA, where last time I drove through all the old non functioning windmills from the early days of envirowakoism are still there, a blight on the landscape.

And like the feds do with other industries, think superfund sites where reclamation is paid for by current or new chemical plants, current and future wind and solar generators should be taxed for a “renewable energy” super fund to free the landscape of the blight. I am sure Mr. Big Oil Bob would want to tax somebody else for that superfund, probably “BIG OIL”.

Reply to  Drake
March 4, 2021 6:36 am

 Lets make it universal for all forms of energy production including wind and solar to set aside the total land recovery costs in the first 2 years of production. “

Why the first 2 years? I’d be happy for the squirrel away to occur as a fraction of SEC recovery for oil and gas and as an estimated fraction of total expected electricity production for wind.

Keep in mind that your suggestion would be instantly thrown out by the oil extractors because they have done nothing approaching this, anywhere, ever. In fact, if you read thru their quarterly reports, most have weasel words on page 113 that tell us that if they had to do this they would have to fold up their tents.

“Just imagine the cost to remove the massive concrete foundations for the modern windmills. “

These conditions are all part of lease agreements. For oil and gas as well. The problem is that the hydrocarbon extractors have been doing a century’s worth of shirking these agreements, aided and abetted by Ben Dover regulators and paid up legislators. Dragging out compliance is a whole Kabuki theater in almost every state and offshore.

“And like the feds do with other industries, think superfund sites where reclamation is paid for by current or new chemical plants, current and future wind and solar generators should be taxed for a “renewable energy” super fund to free the landscape of the blight. I am sure Mr. Big Oil Bob would want to tax somebody else for that superfund, probably “BIG OIL”.”

Got me there. Asset retirement $ should be there when needed, and we should not rely on future extractions or other activities to fund them. Superfund sites are admissions of oversight failure, not business as usual.

Ron Long
March 3, 2021 6:52 am

Go get them, David. Frac them and feed them fish heads. Wow, that’s a lot of thrust faults, must be that subduction deal pulling the plates along?

Grumpy Bill
Reply to  Ron Long
March 3, 2021 7:05 am

It’s my understanding that the thrust faults in this area resulted from North America colliding with, then puling away from, Northwest Africa.

James F. Evans
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2021 9:56 am

Fig. 8 Idealized cross-section (not to scale) of the Central Valley

A useful cross-section in showing surface geology is connected to deeper geology, namely the diabase, also known as dolerite or microgabbro.

In many instances, this type of geologic formation is associated with the presence of hydrocarbons.

James F. Evans
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2021 12:16 pm

Thank you.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2021 3:15 pm

That is only one of the orogenys.

“According to Rodgers (1970, Chapter 11) who summarized the tectonics of the Appalachian Mountains, there were three major orogenic movements which resulted in the development of the Valley and Ridge Province of the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania, including the Anthracite Region;

  • the Taconic Orogeny occurring from approximately 450 through 500 million years ago,
  • the Acadian Orogeny occurring during the Devonian Period from approximately 360 through 400 million years ago,
  • and the Allegheny Orogeny occurring from approximately 230 through 260 million years ago.”

A statement that fails to mention orogenys prior to the Appalachian orogenys.
e.g., “Grenville Orogeny (1250-980 mya)”
comment image

Reply to  David Middleton
March 5, 2021 8:21 pm

I do not dispute that David.
I did not detail the mountain building/erosion events as you essentially already described them in the article.

As evidenced by the quote in my comment. A quote that identifies the Taconic/Acadian/Appalachian orogenys.

I only point out that there are more orogenys. Well, at least one.
The Grenville Orogeny precede the Taconic/Acadian/Alleghany by at least 500 million years.

March 3, 2021 6:53 am

There are a few counties in NE PA and bordering NY that won’t be able to do any drilling. In the big context no big deal but for the land owners it is an illegal taking.

Robert Arvanitis
March 3, 2021 6:56 am

Two words: virtue signalling.

Four, if you count the intro.

Ten with these; wait 17 all in…

March 3, 2021 7:24 am

For a moment I thought the article was referring to the Delaware Basin in Texas. Whew!

March 3, 2021 7:38 am

Here is my list of nominations for more fracking bans:
1) the great petroleum fields of Sweden made famous by Thomas Gold and PBS’s Nova science with the slogan that covers their mistakes
2) the Sea of Tranquility on the moon for its historic significance that needs to be preserved
3) the Russian Arctic–because we want to watch what happens

Hans Erren
Reply to  David Middleton
March 4, 2021 3:56 am

Been there…

James F. Evans
March 3, 2021 7:49 am

The description of the layered, multiple geological horizons brings to mind Eugene Coste, a early Canadian natural gas explorer.

Coste wrote an article in the Journal of the Canadian Mining Institute, Vol. 6,(1903) in which he gave a detailed description of the geology of the Eastern U.S. among other areas:

Volcanic Origin of Natural Gas and Petroleum,

The geologic pressure required to thrust oil and natural gas upward through a series of geologic horizons goes beyond any pressures derived from supposed accumulations of ancient algae turned into hydrocarbons.

March 3, 2021 7:56 am

Don’t forget to ban fracking at the Sudbury Complex in Ontario.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2021 8:49 am
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2021 11:04 am

Sauron’s Ring had to be melted.

It doesn't add up...
March 3, 2021 8:22 am

Bet if they identified geothermal potential or lithium rich aquifers it would spin back to being permitted on a dime. Just look at Cornwall, UK.

Steve Z
March 3, 2021 8:32 am

This was probably done to placate the residents of Philadelphia worried about oil spills into the Delaware River, although there are refineries near Philadelphia that could also spill oil in the event of an upset.

The northern part of the Delaware River (along the NY-PA border between Hancock and Port Jervis, and along the PA-NJ border between Matamoras and the Delaware Water Gap) flows through a deep valley, with most of the surrounding terrain about 500 to 1,000 ft higher in elevation than the river itself. Most of this terrain is too hilly to be used for fracking, and is mostly forested with some small fresh-water lakes and small towns. The river itself is not very deep (it is possible to wade across without swimming in many areas), and is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. People living along the upper Delaware valley may be concerned that an oil spill there would not be diluted in enough water to avoid damaging the ecosystem.

To the west of the highest of the Pocono mountains of NE PA, most rivers and streams flow into the Susquehanna River, and there is much more fracking in the Susquehanna “basin” in northern PA along the border with NY.

March 3, 2021 9:23 am

Who needs to drill or basically do anything when you can set and wait for stimulus payments and bailouts of state and local governments.

Gary Pearse
March 3, 2021 9:35 am

David, I never miss one of your magnificent geological posts (nor your takedowns of Luddites in paleoclimate, energy, ruinables, etc.). I have an Msc in geology and a BSc in geological engineering from 60yrs ago (but I went over to the dark side – mining) and I must say I never come away from your essays without learning something significantly new to me.

As a contractor 5 yrs ago, I wrote a detailed client report on the N. American frack sand industry (focused on the natural sand and manufactured high strength sands) and became familiar with the resource maps I’ve seen in your essays. I knew about the Utica but had no idea it was Ordovician which I thought predated the oldest existing petroliferous resources. Are the Ordovician shales original source rocks or were they ‘soaked’ from younger sources?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  David Middleton
March 3, 2021 12:00 pm

Thanks David. I’ve had a query from a researcher regarding what their team calls an AI program that obtains porosity data from other geophysical data. They have had encouraging success with limited rock samples. They asked me how they can possibly get some modest research funding and formation samples with known porosity. It is an engineering faculty at a university. I thought of you immediately. Is their some way I could contact you directly?

John Garrett
March 3, 2021 9:57 am

Thank you, Mr. Middleton. I saw the news a couple of days ago and didn’t think it would have much of an effect on the Marcellus/Utica— but I’m not trained as a geologist (in my former occupation, there were a lot of folk who, notwithstanding their lack of training, tried to practice petroleum geology with a notable lack of success. See Mukluk).

(hydrocarbon geologists are among my favorite people)

Last edited 1 year ago by John Garrett
Mark E Shulgasser
March 3, 2021 11:23 am

“The frac’ing ban in the Delaware River Basin is rated as fake news. It would have been fracking hilarious fake news if these Democrat idiots thought they had actually banned frac’ing in the Delaware Basin.” The jocularity and sarcasm in many reports here is offputting and confusing. What does this mean? Have they or have they not banned fracking in the Delaware River Basin? I gather from the article, altho it is not clearly stated, that there is little or no gas to be fracked in the area anyway.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark Shulgasser
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Mark E Shulgasser
March 3, 2021 4:56 pm

If some legislature were to pass a law or ordinance that any man with the name of Mark could not legally become pregnant, would you really care?

Reply to  Mark E Shulgasser
March 4, 2021 4:14 am

The simple answer is no. This was done by leftist idiots so they can crow to their mentally damaged base that they are “doing something” whilst doing nothing. Typical Democrat Party crap.

March 3, 2021 11:58 am

All one needs to know to realize this article is way off-base is that we already have test results showing there IS viable gas to develop. With friends like this…

March 3, 2021 12:17 pm

Does this mean you could frack for lithium or cobalt in Central Park, NYC?

Hans Erren
March 3, 2021 12:22 pm

Fracking is essential to stimulate deep geothernal wells, so Delaware ruled that out as well.

March 3, 2021 2:48 pm

But but but, there are lots of shales and schists along the Delaware River!
I rather like the Wissahickon schist…
The shales, might be good for laboratory counters, pavement or as roofing material. They might even have fossils if split right.

Pennsylvania has many shales that have drinking water wells reeking with brimstone flavors…

Your “Map 7” and “Figure 2-3 geologic cross section” show the Ordovician shales reaching the Delaware Valley in Northampton county.

Not that I have ever seen coal mines or oil wells along the Delaware River.

However, the DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) claims land along the Schuylkill and Lehigh Rivers where there are old coal mines. Both rivers originate in Ordovician shale country.

Perhaps there is no immediate impact, but we can hope they grow up soon.

Last edited 1 year ago by ATheoK
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  ATheoK
March 3, 2021 4:58 pm

The shales, might be good for laboratory counters, pavement or as roofing material.

Shales, or slates?

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 5, 2021 8:49 pm

You are correct in terminology, Clyde.

Slate is by far the superior rock for counters, pavement and especially roofs.
Slates can, usually, be cleanly split into even layers and tends to be more durable.

Slate is a metamorphic stage between shale and schist. Basically, eroded and silted remnants of other rocks after sufficient compaction becomes shale. After sufficient compression and metamorphism at depth becomes slate.

Shale makes decent paving stones, except they’re irregular, don’t have flat smooth surfaces and they’re brittle.

Until one can get close enough to test whether a rock is shale or slate it is easier to just term them shales until one is sure it is slate. Especially in the bed of the Delaware River where I’ve seen few slates and a lot of shale.

As FYI from Geology . com;

Uses of the Word “Slate”The word “slate” has not been used consistently over time and in some industries. Today most geologists are careful not to use the word “slate” when talking about “shale.” However, in the past the word slate was often used freely in reference for shale.

This confusion of terms partially arises from the fact that shale is progressively converted into slate. Imagine driving your car eastwards in Pennsylvania through areas of increasing metamorphism, starting where the rock is definitely “shale” and stopping to examine rock at each outcrop. You will have a difficult time deciding where on that route “shale” has been converted into “slate.” It can be difficult to pick up a rock and apply the proper name where the rocks have been lightly metamorphosed.”

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  ATheoK
March 6, 2021 11:27 am

I’m getting the feeling that it is mostly geologists and engineers that haunt this forum.

Yes, it is often difficult to pick a precise location or time when something changes into something else. However, a good geologic map, particularly if there are isograd lines on it, will provide a strong indication whether the dominant rock is a shale or slate.

March 4, 2021 2:58 am

but its nice green sounding headline for bidet n co

March 4, 2021 5:06 am

This has to be on a par with this week’s announcement that Biden has banned exporting military weapons to Russia. As though they ever did.

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