EnerVest’s Grand Experiment: Fracking Clinton Sandstone in Ohio

the grand experimentLong before the words “Marcellus” and “Utica” entered the public discourse and consciousness of Ohioans, there was the Clinton Sandstone. For years conventional drillers have been sinking wells in the Clinton, which is found 4,500 feet below the surface (the Marcellus and Utica Shale layers are deeper). The Clinton lies under 25 counties in eastern Ohio. Over the years, some 35,000 conventional (vertical) wells have tapped the Clinton Sandstone in Ohio. EnerVest, one of the largest acreage holders in the Utica Shale (and in the Clinton Sandstone), has embarked on a great experiment. What if you turned a Clinton Sandstone well horizontal, like a Utica or Marcellus well? Would it work? Could you get more gas out of the sandstone by fracking it like shale? EnerVest has drilled seven horizontal wells so far, with a permit to drill another and a request to drill a ninth. Here’s the details, along with the differences between a Clinton horizontal well and a Utica horizontal well…
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Ohio to Get “Baby” Ethane Cracker Originally Slated for WV

In February 2013 MDN told you about plans from Appalachian Resins (AR) to build a polyethelene (PE) manufacturing plant complete with a baby ethane cracker (see “Small” Ethane Cracker Plant Coming to Wheeling, WV). The company, at that point, said they would begin construction somewhere south of the Wheeling, WV area by the end of 2013. That didn’t happen. Now we know why. Last week, AR’s CEO Jim Cutler announced he had signed a letter of intent with the Monroe County (OH) Port Authority to build the plant in Monroe County instead. The location for the plant moved just across the Ohio River, from the WV side to the OH side of the river. The cost to build the new facility is a cool $1 billion. No doubt both sides of the border will benefit, but this is definitely a loss for WV and a big gain for OH…
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Dominion Commits to Major New Marcellus/Utica Pipeline Project

What a difference five months can make in the midstream business. In April Dominion launched a nonbinding (“feeling out the marketplace”) open season to gauge potential interest in a pipeline that would carry Marcellus and Utica Shale gas from West Virginia into Virginia and eventually to North Carolina (see Dominion Announces 2 New Pipeline Projects from Marcellus/Utica). The project was called the Dominion Southeast Reliability Project. At the end of May, Dominion was still saying the proposed pipeline, which would cost around $2 billion to build, was still “very preliminary” and that the company had “not decided to do this” (see More Details/Proposed Route of Dominion Marcellus to NC Pipeline). We couldn’t even locate a map of the proposed route! Looks like the nonbinding open season was a big success. Yesterday Dominion announced not only is the pipeline going forward, they’ve formed a joint venture with three other companies to build it. We have a map of the route, a name change for the project (now called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline), and the price to build it has more than doubled–from $2 billion to $5 billion! Here’s the details…
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Hilcorp Drops Forced Pooling Request in W PA

On a day filled with big news, here’s even more big news: Last Friday Hilcorp announced they would withdraw their request for forced pooling for several properties in Lawrence County, PA. As MDN has reported a number of times, this issue has now gone on for years. As we’ve also told you, PA law allows Utica wells to be pooled under a 1961 law (below a certain depth), but Marcellus wells cannot be pooled. Just last week the state Dept. of Environmental Protection rescheduled new hearing dates–for the 4th time! (see PA DEP Rescedules Hilcorp Forced Pooling Hearing 4th Time). Now it’s a moot point. Here’s the kicker: the three families with a combined 35 acres that didn’t want to lease won’t see a penny from Hilcorp, while their neighbors will rake in the big bucks. All of the same truck traffic, etc. will still happen for the obtuse people who didn’t want to sign–except now they get all of the headaches and none of the benefits. Sounds like a real “win” to us!…
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EQT & NextEra Tie the Knot on WV-VA Pipeline Joint Venture

There’s a big difference between nonbinding and binding–as in open seasons. When a pipeline company wants to see if they can get any interest for building a pipeline (which involves millions of dollars of investment, sometimes billions) they start with a “nonbinding” open season. Think of it as an elaborate marketing exercise in lead generation. If the company gets good vibes from the nonbinding open season, they then move to a binding open season. It’s one thing to say “Yeah, we’ll use X capacity on that pipeline if you build it.” It’s a whole other thing to sign on the dotted line, committing to a binding contract for the next 10-20 years. It is a huge financial commitment. EQT and their joint venture partner NextEra Energy announced a new pipeline project in June. The 330-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline project would run from Wetzel County, WV to Pittsylvania County, VA (see EQT Announces New Marcellus/Utica Pipeline to Southeastern US). EQT announced yesterday the previous nonbinding open season changed to binding, an important change…
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Penn State to Study Effects of “Mailbox Money” in PA Marcellus

Have you ever heard the phrase “mailbox money” used to describe royalty checks (and singing bonuses) landowners receive for Marcellus Shale wells? We hadn’t either–but apparently that’s the phrase that’s used, somewhat pejoratively, to describe this economic miracle. We wonder how money flowing to snotty rich people who inherited their wealth is described–maybe “lazy money” or “daddy’s money” or “trust fund money”? But we digress. Researchers at Penn State University have received a $150,000 grant (“grant money”) to research whether or not Marcellus money going to previously poor, dumb farmers in PA (our interpretation) makes a difference to the health and well being for the kids in those households, vs. the poor, dumb farmer kids across the border in NY who are kept in poverty by the actions of NY’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who refuses to allow Marcellus drilling. The study will evaluate whether or not Marcellus money affects a child’s well-being–ranging from behavior, psychological and health factors to school success…
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