New York State


New York has a long history of oil and gas production. In fact, William Hart dug the world’s first natural gas well in Devonian organic-rich shale in Fredonia, 1825.  For many years, townspeople had noticed that flammable natural gas was seeping out of the black shale in stream beds.  Hart discovered a good flow of gas at a depth of 27 feet.  He built pipelines, first out of wood coated with tar soaked rags, and then later out of led and tin.  Gas from the Hart well was eventually used to light the streets and many buildings in Fredonia. This new source of light was hailed around the world. 

Oil seeps were common in southwestern New York when the first European settlers arrived, and Native Americans were said to have used the oil for medicinal purposes. The first commercially successful oil well in the world was drilled just south of Jamestown, NY in Titusville, PA (1859).  The drilling boom that followed soon moved north and in 1881 oil was discovered in New York State.  By 1882, New York was the number one oil-producing state in the nation.  That boom came and went but New York has continued to produce oil from several fields in the southwestern part of the.  Total production for 2010 was 387,349 barrels.

The majority of hydrocarbon production in New York is natural gas which can be found in several different types of reservoirs across the state.  Most of the current production comes from the Ordovician Black River hydrothermal dolomite reservoirs of south-central New York.  Other formations that currently or historically produced gas are the Cambrian Rose Run Sandstone, the Ordovician Trenton Limestone and Queenston Sandstone, The Silurian Herkimer, Oneida Medina Sandstones, and the Devonian Oriskany Sandstone and Onondaga Limestone.   Natural gas production for 2010 was 35.8 billion cubic feet (BCF), which represents about 3% of what New York State consumes each year.   

There is enormous potential for natural gas production from the Devonian Marcellus Shale, which has drawn a lot of attention recently and is currently being developed south of the border in Pennsylvania.  There is also potential for production from the Ordovician Utica Shale.  These two shales have been the source rock of all of the oil and gas produced in the state thus far.  The oil and gas formed in these source rocks and then migrated upward into porous and permeable formations where it was later discovered and produced.  The twin technological advances of horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing have now made it possible to extract natural gas from these source rocks.

For more information regarding New York's production history please refer to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation website:

Dr. Chuck Ver Straeten has spent much of his career on the Devonian including work on the Marcellus.  His home page is here:

The Reservoir Characterization Group has also done extensive work on analysis of the Utica and Marcellus Shales and other natural gas reservoirs in the State.  Some of their posters and presentations are available here:




The New York State Geological Survey (NYSGS) is a bureau of
the New York State Museum in the New York State Education Department.