A couple of years ago, there were whispers among an informed few in the region about the fortunes to be made from the nearby Marcellus Shale. Today the formerly mysterious “Marcellus” is rather ubiquitous. Marcellus Shale is the topic of town meetings, featured in headlines, and the keyword in landowner blogs. The Marcellus Shale, buried a mile from the earth’s surface, is a layer of gas-rich rock that stretches from New York to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio. Geologists believe the Marcellus Shale formation may be the world’s leading onshore shale play with 500 trillon cubic feet of natural gas. Analysts have speculated the reserves could meet the gas consumption needs of the U.S. for 20 years! Major corporations are spending billions on leases, drilling, processing and transporting the gas. Pennsylvania believes well over 100,000 jobs will be created in the next 10 years by drillers and their suppliers.
But now a new phrase is being shared in hushed tones with a raised eyebrow: Utica Shale. The Utica Shale is below the Marcellus, and it is heavily concentrated in Ohio. Whispers say the gas contained in the Utica is “wet,” and that means oil, now around $100/barrel. There can also be other valuable liquids like propane, butane, pentane, etc. No one is publicizing early well results, but rumors are very encouraging.
The development of the Utica play may still be years behind the Marcellus, but eastern Ohio stands to see tremendous investments in the future. And we are getting prepared. Ohio, through new regulations, is well prepared to safely and fairly regulate the drilling, fracking and the disposal of wastewater. Groups like OSU Extension and the Farm Bureau are informing landowners about lease rights. Educational institutions like Zane State College and Mid East Career Center are training workers for the industry. Ohio’s tax code makes operating in Ohio a much more profitable venture than Pennsylvania or West Virginia. And we have an ample supply of shovel-ready sites and buildings for suppliers.
When the whispers of Utica turn to shouts, we’ll be ready.