Operators drilled more than 1,000 wells into the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale through the end of July, a milestone not reached until mid-September in 2010 and not at all in 2009.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued 286 Marcellus permits and operators reported drilling 207 wells into the formation in July. Through the first seven months of the year, the DEP issued 1,915 permits — up from 1,721 in 2010 and 999 in 2009 — and operators reported drilling 1,015 wells — up from 822 in 2010 and 263 in 2009.

Permitting and drilling remain steady in the initial hot spots for development but are also spreading rapidly into neighboring counties (see Shale Daily, July 13; June 16).

Bradford, Tioga, Susquehanna and Lycoming Counties in northeastern Pennsylvania combined for 1,042 permits and 619 wells. Washington, Greene, Westmoreland and Armstrong Counties in southwestern Pennsylvania combined for 329 permits and 190 wells.

Those figures include permits and wells into both the Marcellus and Utica shales.

Through the end of July the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued 10 permits for horizontal wells into the Marcellus and 40 permits for horizontal wells into the Utica.

Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp. — the leading leaseholder in the Ohio portion of the Utica Shale — has said his company’s leasehold in the play “is likely most analogous, but economically superior to, the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas” (see Shale Daily, Aug. 1). Chesapeake has an estimated 1.25 million net acres in the eastern part of Ohio, including a sizable stake in the play acquired last year from privately held Anschutz Exploration Co. (see Shale Daily, Nov. 5, 2010; Oct. 8, 2010). It also has partnered with Houston’s EnerVest Ltd. on close to 150,000 net acres in the leasehold.

Consol Energy Corp. recently announced plans to run a rig full time in the Utica in Ohio (see Shale Daily, Aug. 3). Consol, which announced its first Utica discovery last November in Belmont County, OH, with a 8,450-foot vertical well that flowed at 1.5 MMcf over 24 hours, holds 200,000 net acres in Ohio and plans to drill six test Utica test wells this year. And Rex Energy Corp. recently acquired 11,000 net acres in Carroll County, OH, for an estimated $40 million and plans to continue acquiring acreage in preparation for a drilling program in 2012 (see Shale Daily, Aug. 5).