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Marcellus and Utica Could Produce 34 Bcf/d by 2035, ICF Says

Natural gas production in the Appalachian Basin, where the Utica Shale was once thought to be wetter and the Marcellus Shale continues to defy expectations, is projected to reach 34 Bcf/d by 2035, according to a revised estimate released Thursday by ICF International.

The increase, included in ICF's second quarter production report, is well above the 25 Bcf/d that the firm forecasted in the first quarter (see Shale Daily, April 25; Feb.13). The Utica's gassy results, combined with ever-increasing numbers in the Marcellus (see Shale Daily, Feb. 20) and a significant expansion in regional infrastructure already completed or planned, is expected to lift the duo's combined output in the coming years.

Among other findings of the report are the improvements in drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology expected to increase estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) at wells across the U.S. and Canada. Not surprisingly, ICF said producer data suggest that newer wells now have longer laterals and more frack stages, but it said some of the best gains in EUR have occurred in the Marcellus, where natural gas is projected to average 6.2 Bcf per well in the second quarter, compared to 5.2 Bcf per well in the first.

ICF also expects more wells to be completed annually in both the Marcellus and Utica because of improvements in the number of wells drilled per rig. Completions in the Marcellus are expected to average roughly 2,050 per year versus the 1,750 per year projected in the firm's first quarter report, while completions in the Utica are expected to average 500 per year, compared to the 395 previously projected.

Advances in lateral downspacing, ICF said, should aid resource recovery as well. The firm said laterals are currently spaced between 1,000-1,500 feet apart, but new pilot tests show 500-750 foot spacing is becoming more common, which could ultimately increase the number of drilling locations in basins across the country.

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