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The Richmond basin, a rift basin of Late Triassic to Early Jurassic age in east-central Virginia, produced the first coal mined in the United States in the early 1700s. These Triassic coal beds are thick and gas-rich, and fatal explosions were common during the early history of exploitation. Since 1897, at least 38 confirmed oil, natural gas, and coal tests have been drilled within the basin. Although shows of asphaltic petroleum and natural gas indicate that active petroleum systems existed therein, no economic hydrocarbon accumulations have been discovered to-date.

The Richmond basin has been assessed by the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) as one composite total petroleum system, in which the hydrocarbon potential of the source beds (both coal and dark shale) and potential reservoirs have been combined into a single continuous tight gas assessment unit within the Chesterfield and Tuckahoe groups (Upper Triassic). Sandstone porosities are generally low (<1 % to 14 %). Thick, dark-colored shales have total organic carbon (TOC) values that range from <1% to 10%, and vitrinite reflectance (%RO) values that range generally from about 0.3 to 1.1%, which indicates that the submature to super mature shales appear to be the source of the hydrocarbons recovered from some of the boreholes. The stratigraphic combination of these potential source rocks, tight sandstones, and hydrocarbon shows are the basis for the current USGS assessment of the technically recoverable undiscovered hydrocarbon resources of the basin. Mean values for these resources are 211 billion cubic feet of gas (BCFG) and 11 million barrels of natural gas liquids (MMBNGL).

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