Regional Shale Activity Growing

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont County may still be in the early phases of the Utica Shale rush, but Gulfport Energy, Antero Resources, Rice Energy, Hess Corp., XTO Energy and others have now applied for 80 drilling from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

With drillers naming wells “Big Foot,” “Blue Thunder” and “Monster,” there are now 19 wells producing natural gas from the Utica formation across Belmont County. Successful wells are leading companies to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire leases throughout the county, as Rice Energy alone paid out $100 million to landowners last year in a single week.

The ODNR issued Utica permits for wells in counties as far north as Ashtabula on the Lake Erie shore, to as far south as Washington along the Ohio River, to as far west as Ashland and Knox in the central part of the Buckeye State. Even though Chesapeake Energy’s strong presence helps Carroll County lead the way in Utica Shale permitting with 378 registrations, counties such as Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe are closing the gap on the more northern counties.

“We are encouraged, but we are still very early in this,” said Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President Tom Stewart. “It is great to see that the counties in southeastern Ohio have such productive wells.”

Generally, throughout the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, the farther east one drills for gas, the more likely this gas is to be of the dry type. The methane-dominated dry gas does not require much processing, so it is much more ready to be sent to market and used by energy companies such as Columbia Gas. As drillers move their operations toward the west, they are more likely to find the liquids-rich wet gas – which, in addition to the dry methane gas, contains valuable ethane, propane, butane and pentane.

However, the growth is taking place in both dry and wet gas areas, ODNR records show. In Harrison County, companies such as Gulfport, Hess, Chesapeake, Chevron and Eclipse Resources have registered 179 permits, with 56 wells in the production phase.

Gulfport’s Boy Scout well in Harrison County pumped 41,617 barrels of oil during 70 days of production last year. The county is also home to natural gas processing infrastructure projects with the MarkWest Energy sites in Cadiz and Hopedale.

In Monroe County, drillers such as Antero Resources, HG Energy, Eclipse, XTO, Magnum Hunter and others have combined to record 63 Utica Shale permits, with 14 wells producing oil and gas. Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor of Energy at West Virginia University, estimated the Antero Yontz 1H well – drilled north of Ohio 78 and west of Ohio 800 in Monroe County – could be producing as much as $300,000 worth of revenue per day.

In Jefferson County, Chesapeake has most of the 36 permits, though Hess and CNX Gas Corp. also have some. So far, companies have 12 producing Utica Shale wells in the county.