By Shane Huffman, Geologist
In this modern period of unconventional shale plays, the industry again has shifted its attention to the Appalachian Basin, this time to explore the Utica Shale. During the last three years, operators have applied their exploration efforts to the more oil-prone and liquids-rich shale plays. Much like the Eagle Ford Shale in southern Texas, the Utica has three distinctive windows for exploration: a dry gas window, a liquids-rich gas window, and an oil window, making the shale an economically attractive target for the industry (See Figure).
The recent focus of exploration activity for the Utica Shale has been primarily in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania where the formation reaches depths of 3,500 feet along the western margin and deepens eastward to 10,000 feet.
The Utica Shale is an organic, carbonate rich black shale deposited in warm oceans that extended from Quebec to Tennessee during the Late Ordovician period (443 – 490 million years ago). The formation lies between 2,000 and 4,000 feet below the Marcellus Shale and has been a major source rock for oil and gas in the deep reservoirs in the Appalachian Basin. The thickness of the Utica varies from less than 100 feet to more than 500 feet. The primary pay target is the lowermost 120 to 140 feet of the formation known as the Point Pleasant.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates potential recoverable reserves from the Utica Shale to be between 1.5 and 5.5 billion barrels of oil and between 3.8 and 15.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The vast reserves of oil and natural gas estimated by the industry and state geologists have been called a “game-changer” for American energy independence and could even surpass the energy potential in the Marcellus Shale.
In the wake of the evolving play, ABARTA Oil & Gas has positioned itself to benefit from the development of this natural gas resource. In the spring of 2012, ABARTA Oil & Gas entered into a partnership with Medina Fuel Company and Rex Energy to jointly explore and develop approximately 6,400 acres in Guernsey, Noble, and Belmont counties, Ohio, known as our Warrior South Project. Warrior South falls in what has been deemed the “sweet spot” of the Point Pleasant as it lies in the liquids-rich gas window.
Rex Energy serves as the project operator and to date has drilled a total of 8 wells, all of which are currently producing. The project has added significant volumes to our reserves and is proving to be a successful venture with an additional 6 wells planned for 2014.