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EIA: Utica Rig Count Doubles in Year

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said the number of drilling rigs active in the Utica Shale during the last week of October had more than doubled compared with the same week in 2011, with an increase in rigs targeting oil more than offsetting the loss of natural gas rigs.

Citing Baker Hughes Inc. data, the EIA on Nov. 20 said 28 rigs were active in the Utica on Oct. 26, compared with 13 that were operating on Oct. 28, 2011. The percentage of wells targeting shale oil increased to almost 86% from 15% year/year.

Although the 28 rigs active in the Utica was "well below" the 88 active rigs in the Marcellus Shale, the EIA pointed out that the number of drilling rigs in the Marcellus had actually fallen by 53 compared with 2011.

The EIA said the decrease in drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania's portion of the Marcellus appeared to be happening only in predominantly dry areas of the shale play, those areas that contain low volumes of natural gas liquids (NGL).

According to EIA calculations based on LCI Energy Insight estimates, average natural gas production in the Marcellus rose 72%, to 6.8 Bcf/d, between October 2011 and October 2012.

Data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Division of Mineral Resources Management showed that full-year 2011 production in the Utica averaged 0.007 Bcf/d of natural gas and 127 b/d of oil.

ODNR spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans said she couldn't confirm the EIA's figures since the federal agency receives its rig count based on field reporting. But she was able to confirm there were 28 rigs operating in Ohio's portion of the Utica as of Nov. 17. "That would certainly be double what we saw less than a year ago," she said. "Actually, it has doubled over the course of this year."

Asked if her agency had a prediction over where the rig count in Ohio's Utica would go from here, she said, "it's difficult for the ODNR to speculate because we have so little production figures in house. Right now we're showing about 41 wells in production...we do expect by the end of the year we may be seeing between 200 and 225 wells drilled, and next year we do believe that will double to as much as 500 wells.

"In terms of production, we know that we are still in an exploratory stage, and we recognize with that fact it could be two to three more years before we really see peak production."

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