Gulfport Energy Corp. continues to bolster its acreage position in the Utica Shale of southeast Ohio, inking a deal last week that will find it paying $478,500 in signing bonuses and 20% of production royalties to a small village along the Ohio River.

The deal is similar to one Gulfport signed in December with a local school district for 20 acres in the dry gas window of Belmont County. Gulfport agreed to pay Bellaire Village, with a population of roughly 4,000 people, $7,250/acre across a patchwork of 66 acres, according to village officials.

Other than its position in the Canadian oilsands, the Utica is Gulfport’s largest asset and thus far the company has spared no expense to develop its position in southeast Ohio, where it has 108 permits in Belmont, Guernsey and Harrison counties. That area is being heavily developed, along with Monroe, Noble, Carroll and Columbiana counties, by operators targeting a series of windows with wet and dry gas, as well as oil (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19, 2013).

Prior to the recent deals it struck with Bellaire and the Shadyside Local School District, company records and calculations by NGI’s Shale Daily showed that the company had about 147,350 net acres under lease in the Utica, making it the seventh largest landholder across the formation.

In Ohio, though, Gulfport remains the second-largest operator, second only to Chesapeake Energy, which has 586 horizontal drilling permits with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The company acquired a sizable position in southeast Ohio with the purchase of land from conventional drillers in the region and started to build a significant position in the state in 2011 (see Shale Daily, July 13, 2011).

In the third quarter, Gulfport said it acquired 9,000 gross acres in Ohio and has no plans to stop building its position (see Shale Daily, Oct. 16, 2013). The company has budgeted $225-275 million for leasehold acquisitions in the Utica Shale and another $594-634 million to drill 85-95 gross (64-71 net) wells in the play this year.