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The Haynesville Shale is an informal, popular name for a rock formation that underlies large parts of southwestern Arkansas, northwest Louisiana, and East Texas. It lies depths of 10,500 to 13,000 feet below the land’s surface. It is part of a large rock formation, which is known by geologists as the Haynesville Formation. The Haynesville Shale underlies an area of about 9,000 square miles and averages about 200 to 300 feet thick. The Haynesville Shale is underlain by sandstone of the Cotton Valley Group and overlain by limestone of the Smackover Formation.
It contains vast quantities of recoverable natural gas. This natural gas is known as "shale gas" because the wells produce from low permeability mudstones that are also the source for the natural gas. It was known to contain large quantities of natural gas prior to 2008. However, prior to that time, it was uneconomic to extract the natural gas. As a result of rising gas prices and improved technology, i.e. hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, it became possible to extract the gas from the Haynesville Shale in an economic and cost-effective manner.
The Haynesville Formation, from which the Haynesville Shale gets its name, was named after the town of Haynesville, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana. In many geological reports and journal papers, the Hayesville Shale was classified as part of the Bossier Shale, although they are now classified as separate formations.
Haynesville production grew rapidly from 2008 to 2011, and by mid-2012 had produced 5 tcf of gas total. 
Lithology of Haynesville Shale
The Haynesville Shale is a lithologically heterogeneous, often organic-rich, mudstone. The composition of these mudstones varies greatly depending on position on geographic location and stratigraphic position. They vary from calcareous mudstone near the carbonate platforms and islands to argillaceous mudstone in areas where submarine fans prograded into the basin and diluted organic matter For example, the Haynesville Shale has been observed to vary in composition from 25 to 35 percent clay and 5 to 30 percent calcite in samples recovered from one oil and gas well. In that well, the Haynesville Shale consists of silty, argillaceous mudstones, silty, calcareous mudstones, and dolomitic mudstones and dolostones. The silty, argillaceous mudstones contain more than 30% silt-sized siliceous grains. The silt often occurs as laminations within these mudstones. In addition, the argillaceous matrix of such mudstones frequently contains numerous calcareous particles and stringers. The calcareous particles include coccoliths, bivalve, and gastropod fragments, and calcispheres. Organic matter in the form of amorphous kerogen coats the argillaceous material. Silty, calcareous mudstones contain more than 20% calcite. In these mudstones, the calcite occurs as silt-sized microfossil hash composed of fragmented fossils and carbonate mud. Where organic matter is low and silts are rare, the calcareous microfossil and carbonate mud has recrystallized. Possibly, further alteration of silty, calcareous mudstones has resulted in the formation of the dolomitic mudstones and dolostones. Both the silty, argillaceous mudstones and silty, calcareous mudstones often exhibit sparse to abundant, laminated pelletal fabrics.
The Haynesville Formation consists of marine and coastal plain limestone, shale, mudstone, and sandstone. In addition to the Haynesville Shale, the Haynesville Formation contains two formal subdivisions, which geologists call members. They are the Gilmer Limestone, also informally known as the Cotton Valley Limestone, and Buckner Anhydrite members. The Gilmer Limestone and Buckner Anhydrite members represent coastal and shallow marine deposits, which form along northern boundary of the basin in which the Haynesville Shale accumulated and separate it from contemporaneous undifferentiated nonmarine deposits that occur beneath Arkansas further north. In addition, the Gilmer Limestone member also represents a carbonate platform with oolite shoals that lie beneath central Upshur County, Texas and western Smith counties, Texas. They comprise the western boundary of the ancient continental shelf basin within which Haynesville Shale accumulated. A third, informal member, which called the "Gray sandstone," of the Haynesville Formation interfingers with Haynesville Shale along its northern edge. This sandstone is regarded as having accumulated as submarine fans carrying sediment from the coastline into the basin within which the Haynesville Shale accumulated.
Fossils and age
Very limited detailed descriptions of the Haynesville Shale indicated that it is fossiliferous. The reported fossils include unidentified coccoliths, bivalves, gastropods, and calcispheres. Both stratigraphic relationships and a nannofossil (ccocolith) assemblage described from it indicates that it is Kimmeridgian, 151 to 157 million years old, in age.
The Haynesville Shale was deposited in a restricted basin that was located on a southward sloping continental shelf covered by relatively shallow water. The mudstone comprising it accumulated as a widespread and laterally continuous blanket across the limits of this restricted basin. The accumulation of pelleted, fossiliferous, organic-rich carbonate mud and even and wavy-lenticular laminated beds of very fine quartz silt and detrital clay reflects the mixed accumulation of carbonate sediments generated within this basin and clastic sediments that came from outside it. The northern edge of this basin consisted of shallow coastal waters floored by carbonate muds and oolite shoals lying just north of the modern Louisiana - Arkansas border. The shallow coastal waters were bordered further north by an arid coastal plain characterized by extensive sabkas. The western edge of the basin in which the Haynesville Shale accumulated consisted of a broad north-south carbonate platform with prominent oolite shoals. The southern rim of this ancient basin and extent of the Haynesville Shale was an ancient Jurassic island, called "Sabine Island. This ancient island now lies deeply buried beneath the surface of Sabine County, Texas.
The carbonate platforms, their oolite shoals, the Sabine Island, and prehistoric Gulf of Mexico coastline created a restricted basin that marine currents could only readily access from the east. As a result of these restrictive conditions, anoxic conditions frequently occurred during the deposition of the sediments that form the Haynesville Shale. Anoxic bottom water conditions allowed organic matter falling to the floor of this basin to be preserved and incorporated into sediments that became the Haynesville Shale. The mechanisms by which organic matter accumulated within these sediments consisted of a complex interplay of local carbonate generation, clastic input from outside sources, variable burial rates, and variable bottom water anoxia and euxinia.
Haynesville shale is an important shale-gas resource play in East Texas and Louisiana. Estimated recoverable reserves are as much as 60 Tcf, with each well producing on the average of 6.5 Bcf. The Haynesville Shale came into prominence in 2008 as a potentially major shale gas resource. Producing natural gas from the Haynesville Shale involves drilling wells from 10000 feet and to 13000 feet deep. The formation is deeper in areas nearer the Gulf of Mexico. The Haynesville Shale has recently been estimated to be the largest natural gas field in the contiguous 48 states with an estimated 250 trillion cubic feet (7.1×1012 m3) of recoverable gas. Production has boomed since late March 2008, creating a number of new millionaires in the Shreveport, Louisiana region.
The other members of the Haynesville Formation are also the source of oil and gas production. Oil and gas is currently produced from shelf-edge carbonate reservoirs which consist of oolite shoals within the Gilmer Limestone and Buckner Anhydrite members. The submarine fan sandstones of the Gray sand in north Louisiana are also significant producers.
A documentary film entitled "Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future" has been made on the subject of the mineral rights leasing "gold rush" and the potential impact of the Haynesville Shale gas play on national and global energy picture.
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- Haynesville: A Nation's Hunts for an energy Future a film by Gregory Kallenberg
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Related SourceWatch articles
- information page Louisiana Department of Natural Resources information Page.
- Haynesville-Bossier Shale Play, Texas-Louisiana Salt Basin (Map), Energy Information Administration, Washington DC.
- Haynesville Shale: News, Map, Videos, Lease and Royalty Information, Geology.com, News and Information About Geology and Earth Science.
- Project Starr (nd) The Haynesville/Bossier Shale-Gas Plays of East Texas. STARR Unconventional Resources, Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas, Austin, Texas.