Pure-play Appalachian operator Rice Energy Inc. continues to scoop up land in Belmont County, OH, where all of its Utica Shale operations are centered, inking a more than $3.4 million deal Tuesday with county commissioners for another 424 gross acres.
The county signed a five-year lease for $8,200/acre, with a 20% royalty on production. The county now has about 830 acres under lease with Rice Energy after it signed a $3 million agreement last year with the company for 405 acres.
Rice Energy CEO Daniel J. Rice IV told an audience in Pittsburgh earlier this month that his company is more than happy with its early results in Belmont County, where he said pipeline-quality natural gas appears to be prolific (see Shale Daily, June 5). The company's first Utica well, the Bigfoot 9H, tested at a five-day rate of nearly 42 MMcf/d this month (see Shale Daily, June 2), and Rice said the company will continue to focus its efforts in the county.
Belmont County Commissioner Matt Coffland said the company is welcome there. He expects that the county will continue to do business with Rice Energy, which has about 90,000 net acres split roughly in half between Belmont County and Washington and Greene counties in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale.
The latest lease will give Rice a chunk of land that extends from the county seat in St. Clairsville in the north all the way down to the Ohio River in the southern part of the county, commissioners said. More operators have been switching their attention to points farther south in Ohio, where wells in Belmont, Monroe, Guernsey and Noble counties have proven themselves in recent months.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 105 horizontal Utica permits have been issued in Belmont County alone, where four operators are working to develop acreage.