Utica Potential Much Larger than Initially Thought

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Utica shale contains far more recoverable oil and gas than initial estimates and is likely the second-largest natural gas formation in the country second to the Marcellus shale, according to a newly released study led by West Virginia University.

The Utica Shale Play Book Study was conducted by the Appalachian Oil and Natural Gas Research Consortium, a group directed by the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at WVU. The study finds the Utica may hold recoverable resources of 782 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.9 billion barrels of oil.

In 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey found that the Utica reservoir contained just 38 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and 940 million barrels of oil.

“The revised resource numbers are impressive, comparable to the numbers for the more established Marcellus shale play, and a little surprising based on our Utica estimates of a year ago, which were lower,” said Douglas Patchen, director of the consortium. “This is why we continued to work on the resource estimates after the project officially ended a year ago. The more wells that are drilled the more the play area may expand, and another year of production from the wells enables researchers to make better estimates.”

The consortium is composed of representatives of oil and gas companies, the U.S. Geological Survey and four state geological surveys, universities, a consulting company and the U.S. Department of Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

Researchers presented the report this week at a workshop in Canonsburg, Pa. The data encompassed a wide-scope of potential areas of recoverable gas using new information gleaned from some of the play’s most productive wells.

Among the other findings is that the most productive strata for energy companies in what is called the Utica shale play isn’t the Utica shale at all. The data point to an interbedded limestone and organic-rich shale interval in the underlying Point Pleasant formation as the preferred target area for drillers, the study says.

“The combination of a relatively shallow reservoir and the potential for liquids production has made this an attractive play,” the study notes.

Pictured: Utica shale formation.

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