OH Utica’s “Best Oil Window” Boundaries Taking Shape

choosing the best With more and more wells being drilled in the Ohio Utica Shale, drillers are starting to zero in on the best places to drill for oil.

Where is the “best oil window” in the Utica/Point Pleasant? A recent article describes its boundaries…

More than 150 horizontal wells have been drilled into Ohio’s Utica shale, but much is still unknown about the rock formation’s energy richness.

The state so far has reported production levels of just nine wells; it expects to release information in April on 50 or 60 more wells drilled last year.

Even with incomplete data, though, producers are zeroing in on a fairly tight section of northeastern Ohio because of two factors: the area’s geology and still-low market prices for natural gas.

Industry officials said Thursday that a zone east of Interstate 77 that runs south from Portage County in a crescent shape through western Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties and into Stark County, could represent the best "oil window," in part because of the shale’s depth in those counties.

Peter MacKenzie, vice president of operations at the Ohio Oil & Gas Association, explained that the form of buried hydrocarbons depends in part on how deep it occurs.

If you started walking east from Columbus, you would be on shale perhaps 1,000 feet underground — too shallow and cool to hold much in the way of usable deposits. By the Ohio River, the shale is 8,000 feet down and hotter, so hydrocarbons there are "dry" — and currently low-priced — natural gas.

Between these geological bookends can be the sweet spot for crude oil and expensive gases such as butane, ethane and propane, which are separated from less valuable methane and liquefied.

Shawn Bennett, spokesman for the industry group Energy in Depth, said that while the east-of-I-77 region looks promising, it will take more "data points" — core samples from test wells and drilled wells — to see exactly where the line falls in Ohio between dry gas and pricier wet gas and oil.

"You can have all the data in the world, but until you actually develop that well, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get," Bennett said.*

*Cleveland (OH) The Plain Dealer (Mar 14, 2013) – Utica shale drillers focus on Ohio counties where oil finds look possible

Recapping, it looks (at least for now) like the “best oil window” is between I-77 and the Ohio River, and somewhere in Portage, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana or Stark counties (northeastern area of the state, see the map below).


Ohio County Map with County Seat Cities from Geology.com