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The Utica Shale Formation

The Utica shale is a large rock formation that spans an area from Ohio to Pennsylvania and across the Canadian border.  The Utica shale takes its name from the city of Utica, New York, where it outcrops or appears on the surface. It was first identified along Starch Factory creek near the town of Utica. The area of the play in Canada covers over 5,000 square Km along the St. Lawrence River and lowlands.  The Utica shale lies thousands of feet below the Marcellus shale and is proving to hold impressive quantities of natural gas, oil and natural gas liquids. Geologists believe that the Utica shale could rival the massive Marcellus shale in terms of potential for oil and gas.


In a July, 28, 2011 report, Chesapeake Energy announced that they had made a major discovery of a liquids rich (oil and natural gas liquids) play in the Utica Shale in Eastern Ohio.

Chesapeake Energy has significant holdings in the Utica shale and believes that it may hold more potential for the company than even the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas. For several months Chesapeake had been alluding to an "undisclosed shale play" that they had discovered. This recent announcement confirms it as being in the Utica Shale of Eastern Ohio.   Chesapeake Energy's Utica shale leasehold area is composed of over 1.25 million acres. It appears that the Utica shale will contain an western "oily" zone, a central "wet" zone and dry gas in the Eastern zones.

 See map of the Utica Shale play in Ohio below:

map of Utica shale play in Ohio  Below is a map of the thickness of the Utica shale. Source: Ohio Dept. Of Natural Resources.

 Utica shale thickness map.

Source: Chesapeake Energy

The Utica shale is currently one of the biggest shale gas plays in Canada, along with the Horn River shale in British Columbia. It may be Canada's version of the Marcellus shale, which is a Devonian age shale that also outcrops in New York. 

Estimates are that the Utica shale in Canada may contain over 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, not as much as the massive Marcellus shale, but nonetheless a impressive amount. Since most of Canada's natural gas has always come from the prairie provinces this could possibly redraw that country's energy map. The Utica shale may be as productive as the Barnett shale in Texas.  Canadian Quantum had the following to say about the Utica Shale:

"It is the Company's position (and others) that the Utica best compares to the highly successful Barnett Shale of Texas. Initial estimates show the total recoverable potential of the Utica Shale in Quebec could be high as 25 TCF with an estimated 93 BCF of original gas in place (OGIP) per square mile. A recovery factor of 15% would yield 14 BCF recoverable gas per square mile."

Geology Of The Utica Shale

The Utica shale formation is of the middle Ordovician age, having been created from sediments deposited in warm seas approximately 465 million years ago. Below is an image of what the earth may have looked like during that period. It is divided into three zones, the Nowadaga Zone, Loyal Creek Zone and Holland Patent Zones. The oil and natural gas in the Utica shale are the result of the decay of organic matter over millions of years. Dead marine organisms settled to the bottom of these ancient seas and eventually built up a large layer of rich sediment, which was covered up over millions of years.

There have been numerous vertical wells drilled over the years down through the Utica Shale formation, as far back as the late 1800's. None of these wells were especially productive since the rock was so dense. Not until recently, when horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing procedures where developed, have oil and gas companies been able to extract oil and natural gas from the Utica shale. Hydraulic fracturing uses high pressure fluid, pumped from large pumps on the surface, to break apart the shale deep underground.

Hydraulic fracturing can be used in both horizontal and vertical wells. In shale formations such as the Utica shale, it is most effective when applied to horizontal wells. For more about these technologies see: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing

Canadian Activity in the Utica Shale

Questerre Energy, a Calgary based company, has reported that it has produced 12 MMcfd from one well located seventy five kilometers southwest of Quebec city. Other layers in the Utica shale include Gastem, Canbriam Energy, Forest Oil and Talisman and Canadian Quantum. Gastem has announced plans to drill for Utica shale gas across the border in New York.

Check this site in the future for updated maps of the Utica shale play.

Map Of Shale Gas Plays In North America from the U.S. Department Of Energy

 map of shale gas plays in united states.

This map of shale gas basins in North America shows the Utica shale as in the upper right hand corner.  

About Shale Gas Plays

Shale gas, according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, will become the dominant source of natural gas in the United States in this decade. There are numerous shale plays in the United States and Canada which contain large amounts of natural gas and oil. Overseas in China, Europe, Australia and other countries, there are shale gas reservoirs that are only beginning to be explored. As the United States and Canada export the technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, we will see the worldwide supply of available natural gas grow dramatically. Natural gas, thanks to shale plays like the Utica shale, is destined to be a major energy source for decades to come. Estimates are the U.S. now has over 100 years worth of natural gas, much of it coming from shale formations such as the Utica and Marcellus shales. Another hot new shale play is the Eagle Ford shale, in South Texas.   For a site with updated information about the Utica Shale, see Utica Shale News

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