A few thousand feet below the Marcellus Formation in the Appalachian Basin lies the Utica Shale. Consisting of alternating layers of limestone and organic-rich shale rock, the Utica Shale is capable of yielding large amounts of valuable hydrocarbons. In a 2-year study organized by West Virginia University (WVU), and financially supported by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and 15 industry partners, the Utica Shale Appalachian Basin Exploration Consortium thoroughly investigated this important hydrocarbon-bearing resource. The resulting Geologic Play Book for Utica Shale Appalachian Basin Exploration will released to the public at a July workshop.
The Utica Shale underlies much of the northeastern United States and adjacent parts of Canada. [Click to enlarge.]
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; this interval thins to less than 3,000 feet in eastern Ohio.
In many areas, the Utica "play," a group of hydrocarbon-producing reservoirs within a geographical area that demonstrate similar geologic characteristics, underlies the Marcellus play, and both shale formations can be produced from a single well pad.
A 2012 assessment of technically recoverable undiscovered oil and gas resources conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey resulted in estimated means of 940 million barrels of oil, 38.2 trillion cubic feet of gas, and 208 million barrels of natural gas liquids (ethane, butane, and propane) for the Utica Shale and underlying Point Pleasant Formation.
The Consortium’s research team characterized the formation; delineated productive "fairways," areas likely to containing oil, gas, and/or natural gas liquids; and assessed the formation’s production potential. The team consisted of personnel from NETL; the U.S. Geological Survey; WVU; Washington University in St. Louis; Smith Stratigraphic LLC; and the state geological surveys of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Consortium findings indicate that the Utica Shale play can be divided into three primary production areas based on several factors, including organic content and formation thermal maturity:
- The eastern part of the play is primarily dry natural gas production.
- A production fairway extending from western Pennsylvania into eastern Ohio produces both natural gas and natural gas liquids.
- West of this fairway is primarily shale oil production.
Results from the study were incorporated into the Geologic Play Book for Utica Shale Appalachian Basin Exploration. The completed study will be presented and discussed at the Utica Shale Play Book Study Workshop, to be held on July 14, 2015, in Canonsburg, Pa. The workshop is hosted by WVU and sponsored by the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council and the Environmentally Friendly Drilling program.
More refinements will be made to the play data as natural gas and oil producers acquire leases and continue to drill this vast resource. The research completed by the Consortium provided answers to many of the initial unknown questions and added evidence that the Utica Shale may indeed be the next big Appalachian Basin shale producer.