For several years, the Marcellus Shale play has dominated discussions about natural gas production in the Appalachian Basin. The neighboring Utica play, while significant, often stood in the shadow of the Marcellus and garnered far less attention from the national press. Its promise of natural gas liquids, in comparison to the dryer Marcellus, looked to be a distinct advantage. However, the lack of infrastructure to process and make use of the liquids eliminated that advantage.
That is finally beginning to change. The industry has been working hard to build new infrastructure in the Utica. New pipelines, fractionation plants, natural gas power plants, and promised cracker plants have helped to propel interest. Additionally, many of the wells in the Utica are producing huge volumes of methane, the “dry” portion of the natural gas stream.
Industry statistics point to the Utica’s gain. As gas production has slowed around the country, including the Marcellus, Ohio’s Utica production recently jumped by double digits. Drillers see the Utica as offering excellent production at a very competitive cost. Companies like Gulfport, Rice, and Chesapeake have become more and more efficient in their production techniques and are excited about the Utica’s current production and future possibilities. While the number of new wells has fallen substantially in the Marcellus, the number of new wells has risen in the Utica. And Ohio has seen its share of national production grow from 2 percent in 2014 to near 5 percent in 2016. It would appear that the best is still to come from the Utica.