MORRISTOWN - Deep within the western Belmont County area known as Egypt Valley lurks a "monster" that is producing as much as 28.5 million cubic feet of Utica Shale natural gas per day.
As Gulfport Energy begins selling methane, propane, butane, pentane and oil from the Shugert 1 well in Egypt Valley, the driller's partner, MarkWest Energy, is now processing Gulfport gas from the first phase of its processing complex near Cadiz.
"Gulfport's success in the Utica Shale and the commencement of operations at our Cadiz Complex are significant accomplishments in the ongoing Utica Shale development in Eastern Ohio," said Frank Semple, chairman, president and chief executive officer of MarkWest. "Early results indicate this play is one of the most exciting new areas for natural gas and liquids production in the United States - and given our leading position in the neighboring Marcellus Shale, we are well positioned to support the producers' future development plans in the Utica."
Gulfport's Shugert well produced an average of 28.5 million cubic feet per day of natural gas, in addition to more than 2,900 barrels of liquids per day. These new numbers are slightly higher than those the company reported in October.
Global Hunter Securities - an investment bank focused on energy - is quite impressed with the results from this Belmont County well.
"The Shugert well is a monster and another positive event for Gulfport as the company continues to derisk its Utica acreage," Global Hunter analysts said in a statement regarding the well.
Companies such as Gulfport, Chesapeake Energy, Chevron and XTO Energy are known in the industry as "producers" because these companies sell the gas they pump out of the ground. Because the wet Marcellus and Utica shale gas requires processing before it can go to market, producers send their gas to companies such as Dominion Resources, Caiman Energy or MarkWest for processing and fractionation.
Many Belmont County residents who originally signed leases with Wishgard LLC or Tri-Star Energy have seen those contracts turned over to Gulfport, while Gulfport has also signed many county landowners to their own leases. Terms of the leases can range widely depending upon when they were signed and a multitude of other factors. However, some property owners have received at least as much as $5,900 per acre, with as much as 20 percent of the production royalties.
"Our results to date continue to validate our high expectations for the play and, with the commencement of operations at MarkWest's Cadiz Complex, we look forward to maximizing the play's potential," said Jim Palm, chief executive officer of Gulfport.
Gulfport is also supplying gas from Belmont and Harrison County wells to the Cadiz MarkWest complex that is now up and running. The interim refrigeration plant is the first phase of the new plant to open, with many more operations still to begin at the large facility, just off Ohio 9 south of Cadiz. Hundreds of construction workers and pipeliners are now working at the plant, while they should continue doing so until 2014.
In natural gas processing, the dry methane part of the gas stream is separated from the wet portions - ethane, butane, propane and pentane. During fractionation, the natural gas liquids and other substances are separated from each other. These separated gas products are then ready for use, with the ethane possibly going to a cracker plant somewhere in North America. MarkWest plans to send ethane from Cadiz to Gulf Coast markets for cracking there.
By the beginning of 2014, MarkWest plans to have 140 miles of gathering pipeline and gas compression to service the 50 wells Gulfport plans to have producing by then.