Utica Shale from Flat Creek near Canajoharie, NY. Photo by Dan Soeder. All rights reserved.
A pioneering study led by West Virginia University, and financially supported by the Energy Department’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and 14 industry members of the Utica Shale Appalachian Basin Exploration Consortium, indicates that the newly explored Utica Shale, which underlies the better-known Marcellus Shale, could hold far more natural gas and oil than previously estimated. If the commercial potential of this play could be realized, it would be, geographically, the largest natural gas field in the United States.
The two-year study estimates technically recoverable volumes of 782 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly 2 billion barrels of oil. These results, which build upon and further refine previous estimates, far exceed a 2012 assessment conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and highlight new potential for the Utica Shale.
Results from the comprehensive study were incorporated into the Geologic Play Book for Utica Shale Appalachian Basin Exploration and made publicly available at the recent Utica Shale Play Study Workshop, which was hosted by West Virginia University and sponsored by the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council and the Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems program. The results are also available in a searchable and interactive database .
In addition to resource assessments, the work conducted by the Consortium’s research team provides detailed information about the origins, composition, and structure of the Utica Formation; organic content, thermal maturity and porosity of reservoirs; and production data and trends. All of this geologic information has been incorporated in the resource assessment. The results of this work will provide valuable information for geologists and engineers to better understand how to develop these resources in an economically and environmentally responsible manner.
The Utica Shale underlies most of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It also extends under adjacent parts Canada, as well as Kentucky, Maryland, Tennessee, and Virginia. In central Pennsylvania, the Utica lies as much as 7,000 feet below the Marcellus Formation; this interval thins to less than 3,000 feet in eastern Ohio.
The Utica has been recognized as a significant natural gas and oil resource with the potential to out produce the Marcellus Shale due to its thickness and extensive geographic reach. Until now, the impact of the Utica Shale has largely been unknown due to the limited amount of publicly available information.
The Consortium’s research team consisted of personnel from the Kentucky Geological Survey, the Ohio Geological Survey, the Pennsylvania Geological Survey, the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey, Smith Stratigraphic LLC, Indiana University, Washington University in St. Louis, West Virginia University, and NETL.
In addition to NETL, financial sponsors of the study included Anadarko, Chevron, CNX, ConocoPhillips, Devon, EnerVest, EOG Resources, EQT, Hess, Range Resources, Seneca Resources, Shell, Southwestern Energy, and Tracker Resources.