The U.S. Geological Survey believes that the New Albany Shale, a formation hundreds of thousands of years old and roughly 5,000 feet below the surface — may hold 1 trillion to 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, just a fraction of 22 trillion cubic feet U.S. consumers go through every year. By contrast, the "gas rush" is most pronounced in the Marcellus Shale, stretching from Ohio to New York and beneath roughly two-thirds of Pennsylvania that's believed to hold one of the biggest natural gas resources in the country, 43 trillion to 144 trillion cubic feet, according to the USGS.
The price of natural gas has fallen because of fracking, but energy companies believe Illinois' New Albany formation may contain oil and other liquid hydrocarbons that are rarer and more profitable.
Jim Watson, a former Illinois lawmaker who's now executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council, said Illinois has the "opportunity to set a standard for the nation." And he said it would bring jobs to one of the poorest areas of the state.
"The opportunity we have for the nation and Illinois is reliable energy and cheap energy, (which will) do nothing but good things for us," Watson said. "If America can become energy independent, that's huge."