The director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources called Ohio's Utica Shale Play "the real deal" Thursday as his department released its 2012 annual report analyzing production from all of Ohio's natural gas and oil wells.
According to the report, 87 Utica shale deep horizontal wells in eastern Ohio turned out 635,896 barrels of oil and 12.8 million MCF of natural gas between January and December 2012. By comparison, 50,000 conventional natural gas and oil wells in Ohio last year generated 4.67 million barrels of oil and 65.78 million MCF of natural gas.
One MCF equals 1,000 cubic feet of gas.
Drilling continues Wednesday morning at the Kibler site along Brunstetter Road in Lordstown. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says Ohio wells are strong producers, but numbers are not available yet on sites in Trumbull County.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Producing wells have gone from just two in 2011 to 87 in 2012. At this rate of growth, ODNR officials said they expect Utica shale well production to exceed the yearly output of all of Ohio's nearly 51,000 existing conventional wells by as early as 2015. Utica wells represent less than 1 percent of all producing oil and gas wells in Ohio.
Companies submitted their 2012 reports March 31, and ODNR released the much-anticipated information Thursday.
But residents of Trumbull County will have to wait another full year before they find out how wells here are doing. None of the 87 wells included in Thursday's report was in Trumbull County, and only one was in Mahoning County.
Utica by the numbers
87: Horizontal wells that produced oil and natural gas in Ohio last year
2: Horizontal wells that produced oil and natural gas in Ohio in 2011
635,896: Barrels of oil generated from Utica Shale wells in 2012
12.84 million: MCF of natural gas generated from Utica Shale wells in 2012
660: Utica Shale wells permitted in Ohio as of May 11
320: Utica Shale wells drilled in Ohio as of May 11
7: Trumbull Utica Shale horizontal wells either permitted or drilled
19: Mahoning Utica Shale horizontal wells either permitted or drilled
14: Portage Utica Shale horizontal wells either permitted or drilled
31: Horizontal drilling rigs operating in Ohio's Utica Shale Play this week
That's because Ohio law requires the oil and gas drilling companies to report production numbers only once a year. All horizontal wells in Trumbull County were drilled beginning late last year with production beginning in 2013.
ODNR director James Zehringer expressed his desire for passage of legislation that would increase the required reports to quarterly, and a top executives with two Ohio oil and gas trade groups agreed that an increase in frequency is expected. An item that would increase the frequency of reporting from annual to quarterly is pending with the Ohio budget bill. The industry has not objected to the increased reporting.
"Overall, the numbers were positive, but we are in the early stages," said Chris Zeigler, executive director of the Ohio Petroleum Council.
Zeigler said the lack of infrastructure, including mid-stream processing plants and pipelines, has slowed growth and he said he expects those numbers to increase dramatically after the necessary infrastructure is laid.
"Until there is a reliable way to move these resources to market, companies will choose to wait," Zehringer said.
Richard Simmers, chief of Ohio's Oil and Gas Division, echoed that, saying he believed most of Ohio's Utica wells were operating with restricted production, advancing at rates significantly slower than the energy companies moved in neighboring Pennsylvania. There, just five years into development of the Marcellus Shale Play, the commonwealth reports about 6,000 active wells.
"The companies have realized they have a huge capital expenditure in their drilling rigs. Without infrastructure, you have stranded capital, so they have decided they would rather have a slower drilling rate," Simmers explained.
Simmers also noted while the majority of Utica wells are located in the Carroll County area, a trend taking the wells further north into Trumbull County is developing.
"The trend is going northward into Columbiana, Mahoning and southern Trumbull County," Simmers said. "And that is where a lot of the drilling may occur this year."