More Drillers Exploring Utica Shale

MOUNDSVILLE – Stone Energy Corp. and Gastar Exploration join Fossil Creek Ohio in digging into the Utica Shale formation underlying much of Marshall, Wetzel and Ohio counties.

For several years, companies drilled into the Marcellus shale in West Virginia and the Utica in Ohio, but the Utica blitz is now on in the Northern Panhandle. The Utica shale sits below the Marcellus, more than two miles beneath the Earth’s surface.

“In West Virginia, we are currently drilling our first Utica/Point Pleasant exploration well in Marshall County and expect to have results early in the third quarter of 2014. Based on nearby operator activity, we are highly optimistic about the potential of this formation and believe that it underlies our entire acreage position in both Marshall and Wetzel counties,” J. Russell Porter, Gastar president and CEO, said.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Point Pleasant formation lies very near the Utica Shale. Gastar hopes to drill its Simms 5H well 11,100 feet vertically before turning it to go another 4,200 feet horizontally.

Last year, Gastar officials said each Marshall County Marcellus well cost them about $7 million to drill and frack. However, Fossil Creek President Chris Rowntree has said his company plans to pay about $22 million to complete each Utica well in the county.

The highest known offers for Marcellus Shale leases in the Ohio Valley would pay $7,300 per acre, along with 20 percent in production royalties. Landowners who have signed Marcellus leases may or may not have also leased their Utica rights, depending upon the individual agreements.

“We expect 2014 to be marked by further realization of the growing value of our assets as we test new formations and expand the areas in which we are developing our currently producing formations,” Porter said. “Later this year, we will be moving both of our Marcellus and Utica drilling programs south to Wetzel County, where we expect results to be equally as attractive as our Marcellus wells and pending Utica well in Marshall County.”

Louisiana-based Stone Energy works mostly in Wetzel County. Chairman, President and CEO David Welch said the company plans to produce over 100 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from its Marcellus wells by the second half of this year. However, he said the company is also looking forward to Utica production.

“In Appalachia, we look forward to spudding our first Utica Shale exploration well later this June, with testing expected later in the year,” he said. “Overall, it has been an excellent start to 2014.”