The Utica Shale — an energy-rich rock formation that lies several thousand feet below the Marcellus Shale across an equally massive swath of the Northeast — is stirring the interest of drilling companies with footprints in central and southern New York.
Last week, Norse Energy filed the state’s first application for a permit to drill a horizontal well in the Utica Shale for gas extraction using high-volume, hydraulic fracturing — the same techniques used to tap the Marcellus.
“Our experts believe that New York’s Utica has even more potential than the Marcellus and that it could rival what’s being experienced right now in Pennsylvania with the Marcellus,” said Norse Executive Vice President Dennis Holbrook.
The Utica Shale covers 28,500 square miles in New York — the majority of the state’s area — and extends south to Tennessee and north to Quebec, Canada.
The Utica and Marcellus formations both move closer to the surface as they extend north into New York, with portions of the Marcellus emerging aboveground at outcrops in several areas.
While the Marcellus is at ideal depths in much of Pennsylvania, it becomes too shallow to drill in some areas beyond the Southern Tier.
And while the Utica is too deep to economically drill in most of Pennsylvania, the depth of the formation is “optimal” in parts of central New York, Holbrook said.
The northern part of the Pennsylvania is where they’ve had some of the best results, with the Marcellus approximately in the 5,000-to-6,000-feet range. The Utica Shale is estimated to be right around that 5,000 to 6,000 foot range in New York. The Marcellus will be more interesting the closer you are to the Pennsylvania border, and then the (farther) north you go, the Utica will become more interesting. The potential of the Marcellus has been very well established and the Utica will be the next one to be targeted.
The potential exists for both Marcellus and Utica drilling in Norse Energy’s 130,000-acre leasehold in Madison, Chenango and Broome counties. Holbrook stated that they will know more once they get the chance to go out and do some exploration.
Vertical test wells have been drilled into the Utica in some areas, including Ohio and Quebec, but the potential of the formation is still largely unknown.
In October 2010, Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy announced that a vertical Utica well in eastern Ohio produced 1.5 million cubic feet of natural gas in a 24-hour period.
Gastem, a Montreal-based company with a 24,000-acre leasehold in southern Otsego County is also waiting to explore the potential of the formation.
Gas extraction using high-volume, hydraulic fracturing in New York has been postponed while the state Department of Environmental Conservation completes an ongoing environmental and regulatory review, expected to last at least several more months.
Norse’s Utica well application, filed with the state DEC in July for a site in the Town of Smyrna in northern Chenango County, will have to wait alongside several dozen applications for horizontal Marcellus wells pending with the state.
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