Gulfport Energy Corp. announced Monday that it has expanded its acreage position in the eastern Ohio portion of the Utica Shale play.

Gulfport -- an independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City -- said it has acquired leases totaling approximately 35,000 gross (17,500 net) acres. The company said it also has commitments which, if they were all acquired, would boost Gulfport's position to about 110,000 gross (55,000 net) acres.

Additionally, the company announced that during the coming months it would consider additional acquisitions, which could give Gulfport a leasehold totaling approximately 130,000 gross (65,000 net) acres in the Utica Shale. The company said it will serve as operator of its Utica Shale acreage and plans to begin drilling in early 2012.

Shares of Gulfport were down $1.75 to $29.89/share, a decline of 5.54%, in Monday morning trading on the NASDAQ exchange.

Paul Heerwagen IV, spokesman for Gulfport, told NGI's Shale Daily that he could not comment on Monday's acquisition announcement at this time.

Gulfport's principal producing properties are located along the Louisiana Gulf Coast and the Permian Basin in western Texas. The company has also recently acquired acreage positions in the Niobrara Shale of western Colorado. Gulfport also holds a large acreage position in the Alberta oil sands in Canada through its approximately 25% interest in Grizzly Oil Sands ULC.

The Utica formation sits underneath the Marcellus Shale and covers a larger area, stretching from Tennessee to Canada, but is at its shallowest in Ohio. Because of its shallow depth, the Utica Shale play is attracting a lot of attention from some of the largest shale gas companies (see Shale Daily, May 19). Ohio reported that it had permitted 28 Utica wells -- 19 vertical and nine horizontal -- since the end of 2009. Of that total only 14 wells have been drilled, nine vertical and five horizontal.