first report on initial output from a new oil-and-gas well in Rome Township has
been submitted to state regulators, and while the well won't be extracting oil
and/or natural gas from the deep Utica-Pt. Pleasant shale formation, one of its
operators said Tuesday it has provided promising new data on how rich in fossil
fuels that shale bed might be in Athens County.
ended up with a new data point (for the Utica in Athens County)," reported
Randy Wolfe, who is partnering in the well with local developer Brent Hayes, on
whose land the well is located.
till now, state officials have had few if any data points showing the prospects
for deep-shale development in Athens County. While energy companies likely have
much more detailed information, they typically keep that data to themselves for
drilling did get down as far as the Utica, which lies about 4,000 to 6,000 feet
beneath the surface in this part of southeast Ohio. (It is deeper in states to
the east like Pennsylvania, but rises closer to the surface and gets thinner as
it extends to the west into Ohio.) According to Wolfe, they took samples from
the Utica that showed total organic content (TOC) levels two to three times
what state agencies had been estimating for the shale bed in this region. TOC
is considered one of the better indicators of whether an area will be
productive of oil and/or gas.
Wolfe said, for actual oil and gas production, the well will draw from the
Medina sandstone formation, which is closer to the surface than the Utica
shale. Wolfe noted that the well used hydraulic fracturing, but only the
vertical type – it did not utilize the higher-impact and more controversial
horizontal hydro-fracking. And without horizontal fracking, he suggested,
drilling the Utica at the Rome Township site wouldn't produce much output.
we've seen in this state is, vertically fracking the Utica doesn't seem to do
much good," he said.
to state regulations, Hayes and Wolfe had to submit a "completion report" on
the well, including initial production numbers for oil and/or gas, to the Ohio
Department of Natural Resources within 60 days after they completed the
fracking operation. (Once an underground rock formation is broken up by
hydraulic fracturing, natural pressure forces the oil and gas to the surface,
with no need for further fracking.)
report, submitted to ODNR recently, indicates that drilling started July 9, and
was completed July 17, with the well going into production Sept. 18. The report
lists the producing formation as "Medina sand," and reports initial production
levels as five barrels of oil and 20,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The
backflow of the brine used to frack the well is also running at five barrels
per day, the report says.
said the volume of oil and gas has been gradually increasing, and thinks the
well will eventually turn a profit – especially if natural gas prices, which
have been depressed for some time, go back up. "It's improving daily," he said
of the well's output. "I think it will be (profitable). I don't think it's
quite as good as we had hoped to get."
drillers report having used more than 66,000 gallons of water and 34,000 pounds
of sand in their frack fluid, plus an acid.
report lists all the underground formations into which the drilling penetrated,
and what the result was in each case. The Berea sandstone, which the drillers
hit at around 1,450 feet below the surface, had a "large gas show," the report
says. The Marcellus shale, which they hit around 3,250 feet down, had a "gas
nearly 5,000 feet they contacted the Medina sandstone, which had an "oil show."
After they got to the Utica at more than 5,800 feet down, the report states,
the contents of the formation "killed soap" at something over 6,000 feet below
explained that sometimes drillers will inject a soap solution into an
underground rock formation; in this case, the oil in the Utica-Pt. Pleasant
shale "killed" or neutralized the soap, and the drillers decided not to try to
use that shale bed for production.
what Hayes and Wolfe are left with is a more or less traditional vertical well,
of a type that's long been common in east and central Ohio. They do believe,
however, that the promising data they collected while drilling into the Utica,
and which they have turned in to the state Division of Geological Survey, may
end up shifting the official view on how rich the shale bed is in the Athens
along, the main importance of the Hayes-Wolfe well wasn't so much its
production value, but rather any information on carbon resources in the deep
Utica shale layer. That information, at least what's available publicly, has
been exceedingly rare, and has contributed to the prevailing uncertainty about
whether Athens County eventually will take part in the deep-shale drilling boom
that's occurring elsewhere in eastern Ohio.
the Division of Geological Survey, part of the Ohio Department of Natural
new maps last month updating the status of Utica shale carbon resources in
Ohio. Like maps released last spring, the updated maps still show Athens County
on the edge of the more promising areas for oil and gas development, with the
potential resources shifting from gas to oil as you move from east to west
across the county. These maps, however, apparently didn't use information from
the new Hayes-Wolfe data point, so it's impossible to tell how that new
information might have influenced how the maps are drawn.
maps have played an
important role in oil and gas leasing activity, with energy firms sometimes
citing unpromising map findings as justification for lowballing lease offers to