Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


CLARK, Donald, EPSTEIN, Samuel A. and FELDMAN, Howard R., Center for Geological and Environmental Science, Touro College, 27-33 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010,

Despite concerns over climate change due to the release of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, fossil fuels will be the main source of electric power generation in North America for years to come. Using current carbon capture and sequestration technology to remove CO2 from flue gasses is expensive and will add significantly to the cost of electricity. Coal power plant flue gas emissions contain roughly twice the CO2 as natural gas power plant emissions per kilowatt-hour of energy produced. The conversion from coal to natural gas power plants is an economical way to reduce CO2 emissions until the cost of carbon capture and sequestration can be reduced to acceptable levels. The wide scale conversion of coal to natural gas fired power plants can only be accomplished if these power plants have reliable supplies of natural gas.

Two separate hydrocarbon systems have been identified in the outer continental shelf off the east coast of North America. The first is in Jurassic and Cretaceous aged shallow marine carbonate-evaporite sediments. The second is in the underlying Triassic and Jurassic aged synrift alluvial and lacustrine sediments that were deposited during the breakup of Pangaea. Arid, hypersaline shallow marine environments are excellent environments for the preservation of organic matter, which produces rich source rocks, and the precipitation of evaporites, which serves as the seal to prevent the loss of the hydrocarbons. The underlying alluvial and lacustrine synrift sediments also form rich source rocks. Thermal maturation modeling indicates that these sediments entered the gas generation window at depths of approximately 5,000 meters. Recent hydrocarbon exploration successes in the Gulf of Mexico have shown that good porosity (>20%) exists at depths greater than 10,000 m. The outer continental shelf potentially has trillions of cubic meters of natural gas that are very close to high population areas of North America. This natural gas could significantly reduce CO2 emissions, as well as nitrogen and sulfur oxide emissions, if it is used to replace the coal that is now being used to generate electricity.