Trans Energy Inc. has begun drilling its sixth horizontal well in Marshall County, WV, looking to further tap into the area’s Marcellus Shale gas, the independent exploration and production company said Monday.

The Keaton #1H well is the third of four horizontal Marcellus wells that the St. Marys, WV-based company expects to drill in the second half of 2010, according to Trans Energy President John G. Corp. Trans Energy recently completed the drilling of the Groves #1H well, which it began in Marshall County in October.

“We are currently working with a number of frack [hydraulic fracturing] companies in trying to schedule frack dates, but availability of frack crews with all the development activity in the Marcellus is difficult at this time,” Corp said.

Trans Energy is moving to a development phase from an exploration phase as it develops its acreage position in northern West Virginia, Corp said. The company has had successful operating areas for some time in Marshall and Wetzel counties, at the base of the state’s northern panhandle.

In July Trans Energy announced that it was expanding its joint venture with Republic Energy Ventures LLC into Marion and Tyler counties, just south of Wetzel County. Marion and Tyler counties “hold substantial reserves and the potential to add significantly to our production,” Corp said at the time.

Under terms of the deal, Trans Energy sold Republic a 50% interest in 5,000 net acres in Marion County and about 2,600 net acres in Tyler County, along with a small overriding royalty position on over 6,000 net acres in Wetzel County, for $23.5 million and drilling credits of $3.5 million.

Marshall County has seen a flurry of activity this year. In addition to Trans Energy’s operations, Houston-based Gastar Exploration Ltd. began its first operated horizontal Marcellus Shale test in the county during the third quarter (see Shale Daily, Nov. 11).

In the wake of AB Resource’s recent decision to withdraw a lease offer in Moundsville, WV — Marshall’s county seat — the city’s mayor said he plans to invite other producers to make drilling proposals (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19).