‘Rogersville Shale’ explored in southwestern W.Va.

WHEELING, W.Va. — Even amid a drilling slowdown, nationwide natural gas production averaged 91.54 billion cubic feet per day in April compared to 85.8 Bcf per day in April 2014, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Corky Demarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, is impressed by the 3.69 daily Bcf the Mountain State is pumping. However, he said this is likely just the beginning because of the Rogersville shale underlying much of the southwestern portion of the state.

“We have barely begun to scratch the surface of this Appalachian Basin,” he said of the area that includes the Marcellus and Utica shale region. “It’s all about supply and demand. Now that we have the demand – and we have the new technology of horizontal drilling – we can go after the deeper formations because it is economical.”

Demarco said drillers are now working in the Rogersville shale area, which he said includes the areas of Parkersburg and Charleston, all the way into Kentucky. He said a test well drilled in Putnam County went about 14,000 feet deep, or about 2.6 miles, into the earth to reach the Rogersville. By comparison, a typical Marcellus well only dives about half that far into the earth.

“The early tests show it as a gas play on the West Virginia side and an oil play on the Kentucky side,” Demarco said of the Rogersville. “And we have even more we can go to now because of the technology.”

When asked how high he believed West Virginia’s natural gas production could eventually go, Demarco said, “Who knows? It’s all about what the market dictates.”

Even as the Rogersville formation seems promising, Demarco said drillers are nowhere close to being finished in the Marcellus and Utica regions. Although drilling activity may be down in certain areas, this does not mean that production is also dropping. Unlike in coal-mining, once a natural gas well is placed into production, the public may not notice any activity at the site.

“That doesn’t mean we’re not producing. Once a well is fracked and hooked up on a pipeline, there isn’t a whole lot left to do,” Demarco said.

“As we get more outlets for our gas, you’ll start to see drilling pick up again in the Northern Panhandle,” he added regarding interstate pipeline projects to take gas to market.

On the opposite side of the Ohio River, Buckeye State drillers produced 2.38 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in April, EIA statistics show. To put that in context, 1 Bcf is enough fuel to provide power to 24,315 homes for one year, according to Cabot Oil and Gas.

Also, the agency states that in 2008, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania only accounted for 2.4 percent of natural gas produced in the continental U.S. Now, the three states collectively produce nearly one-quarter of all domestic natural gas.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the industry,” Demarco added.

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