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Ohio could add 19,000 Utica wells in next 19 years, new state report says

Ohio is projecting that as many as 19,000 new Utica Shale wells for natural gas and liquids could be drilled in eastern Ohio in the next 19 years.

That’s how many wells would fit on the 3 million acres in eastern Ohio without any Utica Shale wells at the moment, Ohio’s state geologist, Mike McCormac, says in a report yet to be released to the public.

His assessment is the most recent analysis showing that the Utica Shale is expected to produce long-term, positive effects for Ohio.

“So again, that could be 19 years; that could be 25 years; that could be 15, 16 years. It’s hard to say right now,” McCormac said. “What we’re trying to do here is just show [that] the potential for a lot of activity exists. It’s not going to be like a two- or three-year thing. … And I think this demonstrates more of the long haul.”

McCormac said developing such projections is important so that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources can maintain needed staffing to oversee Utica drilling. He said his 19-year estimate looks only at land available for drilling in the 11 core Utica counties.

The 19,000 well total probably will not be reached, he said. He based that estimate on 160-acre tracts, but said drillers probably will assemble bigger parcels.

The report surfaced in a Feb. 11 presentation made to the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, an advisory panel. McCormac, a part-time state employee currently out of the country, gave a sneak peak to the panel of his much-awaited annual Ohio drilling report.

The information came to light in a transcript of McCormac’s presentation that the ODNR released. ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management is not expected to release his full report until sometime in April, after final data is received, agency spokesman Mark Bruce said.

According to McCormac, drilling companies probably have spent $6 billion on drilling in Ohio, plus a few billion more on leases. Processing plants and pipelines are estimated at $12 billion to $16 billion in investments, he said.

That means that the Utica Shale boom has triggered $20 billion to $24 billion in spending to date in Ohio, he said.

In a separate item, McCormac reported that Ohio’s capacity for gas processing is projected to nearly double this year, and liquids processing will more than triple in 2014.

The state’s gas processing is expected to jump from 1.325 billion cubic feet per day to 2.525 billion cubic feet per day; liquids processing is expected to increase from 81,000 barrels to 254,000 barrels per day from 2013 to 2014, McCormac said, calling the growth “significant.”

Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.

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