1,000 More Reasons to Pay Attention to Ohio's Utica Shale

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According to an Ohio Department of Natural Resources report shared by Ohio.com, the state has officially topped the 1,000 permit mark on development of its portion of the Utica Shale. As of November 30th, Ohio will have approved 1,006 Utica shale permits in the eastern portion of the state.

Seen as an up-and-coming play, the Utica has drawn comparisons with Texas' prolific Eagle Ford. Similar to the Eagle Ford, the Utica is believed to cover a very large prospective area. Industry is confident in the play's massive hydrocarbon potential, complete with three zones containing oil, dry natural gas, and natural gas liquids.  

The Utica shale rock formation is situated thousands of feet below the Marcellus. However, since up until recently the Utica has received far less attention, it's still in its very early stages of development. The overall geology and production potential for the play are far less understood at this point than its regional cousin, the Marcellus. The Utica as a whole spreads over several states,  but is primarily within Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

So far a total of 617 wells have been drilled into Ohio's portion of the Utica, with 250 now in production. There are currently a total of 42 rigs being worked that are drilling within the state.

Overall a total of 13 new permits were recently approved, with one (1) in Belmont County, one (1) in Washington Country, three (3)  in Carroll County, three (3) in Guernsey Country, and five (5) in Harrison County.

All five Harrison County permits were issued to former Chesapeake Energy's CEO Aubrey McClendon's new company America Energy Utica LLC. Each located in Nottingham Township, these permits represent McClendon's first foray with the new company in Ohio.

Critics of the Utica have pointed out that one of its main issues is going to be gas line availability. Lack of sufficient gas line presence may delay the Utica's commerciality by a few years before it can produce  LNG out of the field. In the meantime, new technology can allow industry to continue its current drilling and begin to generate income.

Some experts believe that the prolific Marcellus Shale pales in comparison to the true potential of the Utica. The Marcellus has even been called the Utica's "opening act."

Mean estimates from the United States Geological Survey of undiscovered, technically recoverable unconventional resources indicate the Utica Shale to contain approximately 38 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, around 940 million barrels of oil, and 208 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

Extreme depth and a limited ability to yield oil and gas to a well due to low permeability are the reasons that the Utica's development was held back. Increased usage of unconventional methods such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") are being used to overcome the previous permeability issue. Use of these methods was very limited prior to 2010, however as seen by the increase of permits, this is all about to change, and very quickly.