As EID reported last week, Monroe, Belmont, and Noble Counties are clear up and comers in the Utica Shale play in Ohio. In fact, in our report, we announced that Antero Resources’ Gary 3H well in Monroe County made Ohio history by being the largest producing natural gas well on record in the state.
Today, we learned that just across the river, a new record was set by Range Resources with their natural gas Utica/Point Pleasant well in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The record was actually for the entire Appalachia Basin, marking the highest initial production rate of of any Utica well drilled so far.
On the heels of the production numbers, EID did some more research into the shifting Utica Shale landscape in Ohio, and there are some very important trends emerging as we head into 2015.
An outsider may take a simple glance at the map showing the status of Utica horizontal wells through the end of November, which would lead you to believe that the play is still largely around the Carroll County area. However, when you take a closer look at the 2014 third quarter Utica well production numbers, coupled with the record wells noted above, it’s clear the play is trending south.
This trend becomes even more apparent when coupled with other recent announcements in this region, such as the December 2nd Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval of Texas Eastern Transmission, LP’s Ohio Pipeline Energy Network Project or OPEN Project and many other FERC projects making their way through the process. That includes Leach Xpress, Nexus, Ohio Valley Connector, and the Rover Pipeline. These projects have caused some to say that “Billion Dollar Projects will ‘Become the Norm’” in Southeastern Ohio.
The pipelines and compressor stations will provide the infrastructure to support the abundance of natural resources that is clearly proving fruitful in Ohio, but the real game-changer will be an ethane cracker. That box may be checked in Monroe County soon, as we recently learned of Appalachian Resins Inc.’s plans to construct a polyethelene manufacturing plant (complete with an ethane cracker). In addition, and just down the river about 65 miles south, we know that Odebrecht and Braskem are moving forward with their plans to construct an ethane cracker in West Virginia. Unlike Carroll County, which continues to lead in Utica wells, this region is prime for sustainable long-term growth, especially with the development of an ethane cracker.
With over 6,000 products refined from natural gas and crude oil, the American chemical industry relies on abundant, affordable natural gas. It is estimated that a modest increase in natural gas supply from shale deposits would generate more than 400,000 new jobs in the United States, more than $132 billion in U.S. economic output and $4.4 billion in new annual tax revenues.
Monroe County development a ‘game-changer’
Last week, I spent some time in Monroe County and learned that almost half the population in the United States is within 500 miles of Monroe County. The same radius contains about half of the country’s retail trade and market area. But what’s especially important is that the county provides year-round rail access and water transportation on the Ohio River, which links up with the Mississippi to the Gulf ports.
Jason Hamman with the Monroe Country Port Authority sat down with EID for a brief interview during my visit to the county, and here’s what he told us.
“Now having an active rail line that runs along Monroe County’s industrial riverfront properties has been a game changer. We now have existing industrial buildings and developable industrial land offering rail, barge and good highway access. The combination of transportation assets and location within an emerging sweet spot of the Utica Shale makes Monroe County a very competitive place for companies evaluating locations for new manufacturing operations, especially in downstream opportunities such as chemicals and plastics. The recently established Monroe County Port Authority can offer significant financial benefits for the capital intensive projects in these target industry sectors. To date, exploration and production activities in Monroe County have provided many new economic opportunities. The 3rd quarter production results were great; however, I think it’s just a preview of what further exploration and development will bring.”
The geology of this region is proving to align very well with the geography, making Monroe, Belmont, and Noble Counties the new game changers for 2015 in the Utica Shale play.