Drilling permits on the rise

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Still in the early stages of the Utica Shale rush, Gulfport Energy, Hess Corp., XTO Energy and Rice Energy combined to record 50 natural gas drilling permits for property in Belmont County from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Though Chesapeake Energy’s strong presence helps Carroll County lead the way in Utica Shale permitting with 339 registrations, counties such as Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe are closing the gap on the more northern counties.

One of those reasons may be the level of production Gulfport is reaching in Belmont County. Among the 19 wells companies have drilled in Belmont County, the Gulfport Irons 1-4H well along Ohio 148 near Armstrong Mills is now yielding about 30 million cubic feet of dry methane natural gas daily, according to company records.

“We are very pleased with the initial results from our Irons 1-4H well, our first well in the dry gas corridor in the Utica. With approximately 44 percent of our acreage located within the dry gas phase of the play, this well stands to unlock meaningful value across a large portion of our acreage,” Jim Palm, Gulfport’s CEO, said.

Gulfport officials said they drilled the Irons well to a true vertical depth of 9,770 feet. They then drilled a 6,629-foot horizontal lateral from the well at that depth.

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 and butane.

Growth currently is taking place in both dry and wet gas areas, the ODNR records show. In Harrison County, companies including Gulfport, Hess, Chesapeake, Chevron and Eclipse Resources have registered 141 permits, with 74 wells drilled.

In Monroe County, drillers have combined to record 47 Utica Shale permits, with 26 wells drilled.

Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor of Energy at West Virginia University, estimated that Antero Resources’ 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.

He calculated the well’s revenue based on the current selling prices for natural gas, oil, ethane, propane, butane and pentanes, multiplied by the daily production levels in Antero’s recent operations report.

“The well production will decline, but you are talking roughly $2 million per week in gross revenues,” said Carr.

In Jefferson County, Chesapeake has most of the 35 permits, though Hess and CNX Gas Corp. also have filed a few. So far, companies have drilled 19 Utica Shale wells in the county. “I remain optimistic that, over the long term, both large companies and small producers will have plenty of incentive to work in Ohio,” Ohio Oil and Gas Association Executive Vice President Tom Stewart said. “It may require some advancements in well stimulation.”