ST. CLAIRSVILLE - In Belmont County, there are natural gas wells nicknamed "Big Foot" and "Blue Thunder," along with a "monster" lurking deep within the area known as Egypt Valley.
Given those monikers, it comes as no surprise that Belmont County, along with Monroe and Harrison, top the state of Ohio in terms of natural gas production, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The ODNR report lists production data for 245 Ohio wells. The report, which covers production from the third quarter of 2013, indicates that energy companies extracted more than twice as much oil and gas from Ohio during those three months than in all of 2012.
PRODUCTIVE WELLS — Ohio Department of Natural Resources statistics show that natural gas wells in Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties are the most productive in the state. - Casey Junkins
It is the first report that now will be released each quarter by the state of Ohio due to a new law requiring drilling companies to file production updates every three months instead of once a year.
The report states that the 245 wells produced a total of 1.3 million barrels of oil and 33.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas from July through September. By comparison, in all of 2012, 85 wells produced 635,876 barrels of oil and 12.8 billion cubic feet of gas.
During the 91 days in the reporting period, each well produced, on average, 5,439 barrels of oil; 137 million cubic feet of natural gas; and operated an average of 55 days, according to the ODNR.
"Because there is so much excitement about - and so much new technology being used in - the shale production, it is good to let people know what is going on with these wells," said Mike Chadsey, spokesman for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
Results from some local wells top the state.
A single Gulfport Energy Utica Shale well in Somerset Township, Belmont County, yielded about 1.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas in just 89 days, while another Gulfport well in Harrison County produced 41,617 barrels of oil during a 70-day period from July through September, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. These wells are in addition to the Antero Resources Monroe County Yontz well that Tim Carr, Marshall Miller Professor of Energy at West Virginia University, estimated could be yielding as much as $300,000 worth of revenue per day earlier this year.
"We are encouraged, but we are still very early in this," said Tom Stewart, Ohio Oil and Gas Association executive vice president. "It is great to see that the counties in Southeastern Ohio have such productive wells."
In 2011, industry leaders estimated Ohio's portion of the Utica Shale may have contained as many as 5.6 billion barrels of oil. However, Stewart said drilling results show the Utica will likely be more of a "gas play, with some associated oil."
Although oil is generally more valuable than gas, this does not seem to be slowing down drillers. Giving their wells the names Big Foot and Blue Thunder, Rice Energy is now drilling southeast of Barkcamp State Park along state Route 149. Just over a year ago, Global Hunter Securities - an investment bank focused on energy - named Gulfport's Shugert well in Egypt Valley a "monster" while it was pumping 28.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day during its testing phase.
While the Shugert remains productive for Gulfport, the company's Stutzman"well near Barnesville yielded about 1.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas during an 89-day time frame. To the north in Harrison County, Gulfport's Boy Scout well pumped 41,617 barrels of oil during 70 days of production.
Gulfport CEO Jim Palm also recently announced the Irons well along state Route 148 in southern Belmont County yielded about 30 million cubic feet of dry methane natural gas daily during its testing phase.
"The strong economics of this well appear to be very attractive in today's commodity price environments and we look forward to drilling a number of wells in the surrounding area during 2014," Palm said.
Many Eastern Ohio residents who originally signed leases with Wishgard LLC or Tri-Star Energy have seen those contracts turned over to Gulfport, while Gulfport has signed many county landowners to their own leases. During 2014, Gulfport plans to spend about $634 million to drill as many as 95 new Utica Shale wells.
According to Antero, the Yontz well reached peak daily production rates of 38.9 million cubic feet of natural gas, 3,177 barrels of natural gas liquids (ethane, propane, butane, isobutane and pentane) and 52 barrels of condensate. Carr considers the condensate just as he considers crude oil.
According to Magnum Hunter, subsidiary Triad Hunter drilled three wells on the Ormet pad across from the shuttered plant in Monroe County. Approximate daily natural gas production rates for each of the three wells are 2.68 million cubic feet per day, 5.1 million cubic feet per day and 3.88 million cubic feet per day.
"Magnum Hunter's focus continues to be in accelerating our leasehold ownership position and adding new production in both the Marcellus and Utica resource plays," said Magnum CEO and Chairman Gary Evans. "We continue to be impressed with the quality of these reservoirs, which seem to get better with time."