Rich gas deposits found in St. Clair Co.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Geologists have found a potentially significant natural gas formation east of Birmingham in Saint Clair County that has sent energy firms scrambling for drilling rights.

During the past two years, drillers have bought gas rights on 500-thousand acres in and around Saint Clair County, and Alabama Oil and Gas records show they want to start production on 40 square miles in and around Ashville.

The shale formation requires expensive production techniques to get the natural gas out of it, but the recent spike in natural gas prices has made it economically feasible.

Hartselle geologist Phillip Meadows performed the original analysis of the area.

He says once production methods are figured out, "we are talking about wells that could easily be in operation for more than 100 years."

Meadows says there are billions of cubic feet of natural gas per square mile in Saint Clair County, part of a larger geologic formation that runs north through Etowah County and into northern Georgia.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)