The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

New Gas Plays Hold Promise

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted July 8, 2010

Interest is rising in a relatively new natural gas discovery called the Utica Shale. It lies beneath the Marcellus Shale and stretches from Canada's Quebec Province through Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, western Virginia and into West Virginia.

Reuters reports that a few companies have drilled successful test wells that have yielded promising quantities of natural gas. Range Resources Corp. says it will release more details of its test results in coming months. "Even though it's still very early," Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range, told Reuters, "the prospects are very good."

Although the Utica and other shale formations are not expected to contain as much natural gas as the Marcellus formation, Pennsylvania State geologist Terry Engelder says they are attractive to drillers because of their proximity to the Marcellus.

Natural gas also is being discovered in the Upper Devonian Shale above the Marcellus, indicating that it might be possible to produce natural gas from three different rock layers using the same equipment in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Natural gas from the Utica and Upper Devonian shales is expected to be produced using the successful combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, two processes that have been used in about one million wells during the past 60 years. Together these two technologies have greatly expanded U.S. natural gas resources.

According to an MIT study, it's believed the United States now has enough natural gas to last 92 years based on current rates of consumption.