The Marcellus Shale.... By the Numbers
In 2004 following the successful completion of the Renz well in Washington County, PA by Range Resources Appalachia LLC, using a "Barnett Shale style" massive slickwater frac completion, the Middle Devonian Marcellus Shale of the Appalachian Basin began to attract worldwide attention. The Marcellus, long recognized as a source rock for many of the hydrocarbons produced in the Appalachian Basin over the last 150 years, became recognized as a "world class reservoir". As a result, some of the world's largest exploration and production companies made the decision to obtain an acreage position in this emerging play. Most of these entries into the play were accomplished through a series of mergers and acquisitions. Many traditional Appalachian Basin operators had attractive acreage, much held by existing and long-established shallow production. In addition, operators looked further to the northeast especially in Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus is thickest, to obtain leases in areas that had not traditionally hosted oil and gas operations.
Challenges operating in these previously undeveloped areas included lack of infrastructure as well as support services. In addition, local residents were unaccustomed to extractive fossil fuel industry operations and often expressed concerns over the impacts of these operations. In an effort to depict the current "state of the play", data were compiled on wells permitted and completed, as well as production data reported to date. These data were summarized geographically as well as by operator, to provide a sense of where various operators are active in developing the play. New challenges have arisen as the price of natural gas has dropped precipitously in recent months. This has caused operators to shift their focus to the western, liquids-rich side of the play. The need to process and use these liquid products has spurred additional industrial development in the form of at least one proposed ethane "cracker" plant with others being discussed. Also, new transportation infrastructure is being developed for the liquids from the Marcellus as well as from the older and deeper Upper Ordovician Utica Shale.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90154©2012 AAPG Eastern Section Meeting, Cleveland, Ohio, 22-26 September 2012