Drilling Down

Hilcorp Gets More Permits for Utica’s Northern Tier

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Interest in oil and gas development across eastern Ohio’s Utica shale remains steady despite a depressed energy market, according to the latest report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

ODNR issued 18 new horizontal well permits during the week ended Feb. 14, the agency said Thursday.

The rig count, that is, the number of oil and gas rigs operating in the Utica at any given day, increased by one to 39 during the week compared to the previous week.

Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Co. secured a single permit to drill in Columbiana County at the Nolker pad in Fairfield Township. ODNR did not issue new permits for horizontal wells in Trumbull or Mahoning counties.

But Hilcorp did receive four new permits for horizontal wells in nearby Mercer County, Pa., according to the latest data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. All four wells are slated for the Wengert pad in Lackawannock Township.

No new permits were issued for horizontal wells in neighboring Lawrence County, where Hilcorp has an active drilling program. Hilcorp at present is the only energy company developing the northern tier of the Utica.

Most energy companies have trained their efforts on the central and southern tier of the Utica in Ohio in areas such as Carroll, Belmont and Monroe counties.

Last week, ODNR issued 10 permits to Chesapeake Exploration LLC, a division of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. Chesapeake secured five new horizontal permits for wells in Carroll County, and five more in Harrison County.

Chesapeake is the most active driller in the Utica, and holds more leasehold acreage than any other energy company exploring the region. Earlier this week, the company sued its former CEO, Aubrey McClendon, alleging he stole confidential information about the company’s holdings and prospective acreage in the Utica before he was forced out in April 2013.

Chesapeake alleges McClendon used this information to launch a new venture, American Energy Partners LP, which is now heavily invested in Utica exploration in Ohio.

McClendon has denied the charges, emphasizing that the information was rightfully his under the terms of separation agreements and other contracts he held with Chesapeake.

CNX Gas, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy Corp., landed five permits to drill in Monroe County, while Oklahoma City-based Gulfport Energy Corp. received two permits for wells in Belmont County.

To date, ODNR has issued 1,814 horizontal permits in the Utica, 1,356 wells are drilled and 762 wells are in production.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.