The Mississippian Barnett Shale serves as source, seal, and reservoir to a world-class unconventional natural-gas accumulation in the Fort Worth basin of north-central Texas. The formation is a lithologically complex interval of low permeability that requires artificial stimulation to produce. At present, production is mainly confined to a limited portion of the northern basin where the Barnett Shale is relatively thick (>300 ft; >92 m), organic rich (present-day total organic carbon > 3.0%), thermally mature (vitrinite reflectance > 1.1%), and enclosed by dense limestone units able to contain induced fractures. The most actively drilled area is Newark East field, currently the largest gas field in Texas. Newark East is 400 mi2 (1036 km2) in extent, with more than 2340 producing wells and about 2.7 tcf of booked gas reserves. Cumulative gas production from Barnett Shale wells through 2003 was about 0.8 tcf. Wells in Newark East field typically produce from depths of 7500 ft (2285 m) at rates ranging from 0.5 to more than 4 mmcf/day. Estimated ultimate recoveries per well range from 0.75 to as high as 7.0 bcf. Efforts to extend the current Barnett play beyond the field limits have encountered several challenges, including westward and northward increases in oil saturation and the absence of lithologic barriers to induced fracture growth. Patterns of oil and gas occurrence in the Barnett, in conjunction with maturation and burial-history data, indicate a complex, multiphased thermal evolution, with episodic expulsion of hydrocarbons and secondary cracking of primary oils to gas in portions of the basin where paleotemperatures were especially elevated. These and other data imply a large-potential Barnett resource for the basin as a whole (possibly >200 tcf gas in place). Recent assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey suggests a mean volume of 26.2 tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas in the central Fort Worth basin. Recovery of a significant portion of this undiscovered resource will require continued improvements in geoscientific characterization and approaches to stimulation of the Barnett reservoirs.

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