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Barbecue celebrates potential for NC natural gas

Experts say signs show there are "significant and commercial" deposits of natural gas in North Carolina's Piedmont region.

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SANFORD, N.C. — There was something prehistoric about a barbecue in Sanford Saturday.

It was fueled by natural gas formed millennia ago in the North Carolina soil.

Geologists say that organic shale hints at natural gas deposits beneath the pine-studded landscapes of the state's Piedmont region.

"We're looking at sediments that were deposited by streams and rivers about 228 million years ago, just before the advent of the dinosaurs," said Paul Olsen, an earth sciences professor at Columbia University and a research associate at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

A survey of Chatham County showed the potential for natural gas there is high, Olsen said.

"There are signs that there are significant and commercial accumulations," he said. "The first thing you look do is look for the right type of rocks, and the right type of rocks are already there."

Patterson Exploration Services operates North Carolina's only natural gas well in Sanford. The well is nearly 3,000 feet and struck gas at 1,800 feet.

That gas fueled the celebratory barbecue in Sanford Saturday.

"That's where the gas is right now we're using to cook the pig," said Kenneth Taylor, a geologist with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Taylor said the natural gas deposits in the Piedmont could help quench the state's thirst for energy.

"There's potential for gas for several years for North Carolina within this basin," he said. 


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