BELMONT - Along an otherwise quiet stretch of Ohio 149 east of Barkcamp Lake State Park, Rice Energy recently discovered 41 million cubic feet of Utica Shale natural gas per day with its beastly "Bigfoot" well.
Because the Canonsburg, Pa.-based company leased thousands of acres throughout Belmont County for amounts at least as high as $7,500 per acre and 20 percent worth of production royalties, landowners should soon start seeing even more of a financial windfall from the fracking operations.
"Big well. Really big well. Will need to see if it holds up," said Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor of Energy at West Virginia University, regarding the Bigfoot results.
Photo by Casey Junkins/Rice Energy, a firm which paid out more than $100 million to lease acreage for Utica Shale drilling in Belmont County, pumped 41 million cubic feet of natural gas per day during a recent production test from its “Bigfoot” well along Ohio 149.
Early last year, Carr estimated that a Gulfport Energy well near Barnesville could have been yielding about $100,000 worth of revenue per day, based on the price of dry methane natural gas and natural gas liquids at that time. That well tested at a rate of 21 million cubic feet per day in natural gas, in addition to 945 barrels per day of ethane, propane, butane and other liquids.
Over about a one-week span in spring 2013, Rice paid about $100 million in lease funds to Belmont County mineral owners. In September, Belmont County commissioners signed 406 acres of land to Rice, which landed them roughly $3 million in lease payments.
"This Bigfoot test is a significant step toward validating the production potential of the Utica Shale in central Belmont County, where we control more than 46,000 net acres. We are especially pleased to deliver these strong results to the landowners of Belmont County, who have believed in us from the beginning," said Toby Rice, the company's chief operating officer.
Rice believes the composition of the gas stream Bigfoot is producing will allow the company to pump directly to market via pipeline, rather than send it to processing companies such as MarkWest Energy or Blue Racer Midstream. He anticipates the company will begin selling gas from the well - which features a horizontal length of 6,657 feet - in July.
Rice is also drilling the "Blue Thunder" well near the Bigfoot. Other companies now drilling and fracking in Belmont County include Gulfport, Antero Resources, Hess Corp. and XTO Energy.