The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) will begin tracking oil and natural gas production in 20 Ohio counties and include those estimates in a new Utica Shale line-item in its Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) beginning on Aug. 11.

The EIA said its preliminary estimate for July Utica natural gas production is about 1 Bcf/d, which is small in comparison to six of the nation's other leading gas fields already included in the report. But in announcing its decision to add the formation to its DPR, EIA said natural gas production from the Utica is on par with the growth in the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas when comparing the first 20 months of activity in both plays.

Moreover, the agency said the level of Utica production is slightly higher than production from the Haynesville formation in Louisiana at its 20-month mark of activity. 

Launched last October to highlight growth in unconventional oil and natural gas production in the nation's leading shale fields, the DPR tracks the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Marcellus and Niobrara shales, as well as the Permian Basin (see Shale Daily, Oct. 22, 2013)..

The agency's move does not come as a surprise given the Utica's proximity to the Marcellus Shale, which is expected to surpass 15 Bcf/d this month in natural gas production, and its position in the Appalachian Basin where operators are increasingly targeting those formations and the Upper Devonian shales with multi-well pads.

At an industry conference in June, an EIA operations analyst told NGI's Shale Daily that the agency was strongly considering grouping the Utica and Marcellus shales, along with other shallower formations, into an Appalachian line-item (see Shale Daily, June 4). He also said a Utica line-item was not out of the question, either.

Despite relatively modest levels of Utica oil and gas volumes, EIA's estimates show that the formation's per-rig production is significantly higher than what occurred in other fields at the beginning of their development. The agency added that it was becoming increasingly hard to ignore the prolific natural gas production in the play's southern tier, where some operators have reported production tests at more than 30 MMcf/d (see Shale Daily, June 2; Feb. 14).

In its last DPR, EIA said natural gas volumes will continue to grow at robust rates through this month, forecasting an increase of 0.425 Bcf/d from July to August (see Shale Daily, July 14). The six regions included in the report, EIA said last month, accounted for 95% of U.S. oil production growth and all domestic natural gas growth from 2011-2013. In every region, EIA said new-well gas and new-well oil production has risen since August 2013.