YOUNGSTOWN - Calling southeastern areas of Ohio the "sweet spot" for Utica Shale production, a Consol executive on Thursday said that doesn't mean oil and gas drilling in Trumbull and Mahoning counties won't be successful.
Harry Schurr, general manager for Consol's Utica operations, said Consol's 20 Utica Shale wells in Ohio are mostly concentrated in southeastern Ohio but include a few in Portage and Mahoning counties. Consol has drilled no Utica Shale wells in Trumbull County after Consol earlier this year abandoned its plans to drill a well in Vienna Township. The decision came after Schurr said the company had invested more than $1 million for site preparations and pad installation.
"We didn't have very good acreage position there," Schurr said Thursday, referring to limited acreage that Consol had leased for the Vienna site. In the end, he said, it all comes down to a business decision, noting what is one driller's success story may be passed over by others.
Harry Schurr, general manager for Consol’s Utica operations, speaks at the Youngstown, Ohio, Utica Natural Gas conference
"Utica is still in large part in the exploratory position," Schurr.
Thomas E. Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, agreed.
"It's all a function of geology," Stewart said Thursday.
Schurr and Stewart were in town this week to take part in the Youngstown, Ohio, Utica Natural Gas - or Y.O.U.N.G. -Conference and Expo, held Thursday at Youngstown's Covelli Centre. The third annual business-to-business networking event, sponsored by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, brought in about 100 exhibitors and about a thousand visitors, down slightly from last year's event.
As more and more test wells are drilled, companies have been able to pinpoint a strip of highly pressurized shale containing natural gas liquids, Stewart said. The strip stretches through areas of Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson, Belmont, Guernsey, Tuscarawas, Noble and Monroe counties, he said.
"The question for the Valley area is, does that strip extend up into Trumbull and Mahoning counties?" Stewart said. Geographic data already has indicated the shale play becomes more shallow and less pressurized in northern Ohio.
"But on the west side of that strip, there's a lot of potential. Does that extend up into the Trumbull-Mahoning County area? That's one of the great questions," Stewart said.
A large map of eastern Ohio displayed during a public presentation by Schurr, indicated data for areas north of Columbiana County still remains limited.
Reaction from drillers in the Mahoning Valley also have been mixed, Stewart said, noting that one has been very pleased with results of test wells, and others are remaining extremely cautious in their outlook in the Mahoning Valley.
Further south drillers like Consol have been extremely pleased with the output.
"We are excited about Monroe County because we believe we can hit Marcellus and Utica from the same pad," Schurr said. The unusual situation could lead to production from two different depths of rock, with the cost-saving measure of using only one well pad.
And now that Utica and Marcellus natural gas and oil drilling operations have turned out productive wells, drillers are looking to new levels of deep underground rock to exploit for hydrocarbons.
"The main driver first was the Marcellus Shale, and then we also got involved with Utica. And now we are getting involved with some shallower shales," Schurr said. Those include the Devonian and the Burkett Shales.