Core sample drilling expected to conclude this week

State geologists look for indicators that the drilling operation might be reaching the bottom of sedimentary rock strata.

State geologists review field observations from a collection of core samples obtained in the Walnut Tree area.

Core-sample drilling in the Walnut tree community to asses the hydrocarbon potential for future fracking in the region is expected to be completed by the end of the week, according Patterson Exploration Services Chief Geologist Russ Patterson.

On Tuesday, Patterson said his crew had drilled to a depth of over 1,000 feet and would continue drilling until they hit igneous or metamorphic rock.

At drilling depths of 1,000 feet it was taking his crew approximately 20 minutes to drill and extract each 10-foot segment of core sample.

State geologists and representatives from the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DENR) have been on the site for the past several days making rough assessments and field observations of the core samples as they are extracted.

“They are logging visual descriptions of the rock and its mineralogy and porousness,” said DENR Public Information Officer Jamie Kritzer.”When the complete the drilling they will bring the rock back with them to Raleigh and it will need to undergo some additional analysis.”

Most of the region is composed of metamorphic rock which cannot produce fossil fuels, but there is sliver of land cutting through southeastern Stokes County and across Rockingham County which contains a collection of sedimentary rock known as the Dan River Basin.

That segment was formed initially millions of years ago as part of the Mesozoic rift system which was created as the super-continent known as Pangaea began to break apart into the continents known today.

As Pangaea broke apart giant rifts formed which eventually filled with freshwater lakes and over many years sediment settled at the bottoms of the these lakes creating the sedimentary rock currently being examined through the core-drilling process.

State geologists declined to offer any preliminary analysis of the samples that have been drilled so far, noting that results will be publicly available when a comprehensive analysis has been conducted.

That process will involve a more detailed visual inspection of the samples, chemical testing of strata of interest, and eventually examination with electron microscopes of the most promising segments of the sample.

Kritzer said funding for that analysis process has not yet been identified.

“I am not sure at this point where money can be identified,” he said. “I don’t know if ti would come form an existing budget or if it would need to come from the next biennium budget.”

State geologists said they hoped to provide an initial description of the process to the Walnut Cove Board of Commissioners at some point during this summer, but could not yet confirm a date for that presentation.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

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