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Joint Industry Partnership Formed to Study Cyclic Gas Injection in Utica-Point Pleasant Shale Region

The Utica-Point Pleasant shale source bed underlies much of the state of Ohio. However, large portions of the bed are considered uneconomical for production. A new Battelle-led Joint Industry Project (JIP) has been formed to determine whether cyclic gas injection can be used to stimulate production in liquid-rich regions of the Utica-Point Pleasant shale.

The JIP (Cyclic Gas Injection for Stimulating Oil Recovery in the Liquid-Rich Regions of the Utica-Point Pleasant Shale) was formed in the fall of 2015. Participating companies will share in the cost of research to evaluate the efficacy and costs of cyclic gas injection for this region.

The Utica-Point Pleasant shale play encompasses western Pennsylvania, western New York, eastern Ohio and most of West Virginia. The most recent U.S. Geological Survey study of the Utica-Point Pleasant, released in October 2012, estimates the amount of technically recoverable oil and gas reserves at 590 million to 1.39 billion barrels of oil, 21 trillion to 61 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, and 4 million to 16 million barrels of natural gas liquids. In western Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio, the play consists primarily of mature source rock, rich in dry gases that respond well to established hydraulic fracturing methods. As developers move north and west, the source rocks are less mature and the product ranges from wet gas to heavier crude oil. The heavier, more liquid product is less responsive to hydraulic fracturing and does not produce economical amounts of oil following conventional completion methods.

The JIP was formed to evaluate whether alternative completion methods could be used to increase oil production and make the area economical for oil and gas development. A large portion of Ohio lies within this oil-rich leg of the Utica-Point Pleasant shale bed. Currently, it is not economical to produce with either conventional oil & gas drilling or completion methods such as hydraulic fracturing.

Immature liquid petroleum products are heavier and less movable than their lighter gas counterparts. Because the individual molecules are larger, they cannot move through small channels and impermeable, low porosity rocks as easily. While hydraulic fracturing with large volumes of water and sand works well to release dry and wet gases, the same technique does not work well with the liquid oil products that underlie most of Ohio. 

In cyclic gas injection, a gas (which could be CO2 or even gas from engine or power plant exhaust) is injected into the shale. The addition of gas affects the viscosity and mobility of the oil in the formation in order to make the oil more mobile and easier to produce. The gas injection and soak cycle is repeated several times, with production taking place between injection cycles.  

The study may also evaluate other methods of oil recovery from the liquid-rich shale. 

Phase I, which began in November of 2015 and is expected to run through the summer of 2016, will consist of data gathering and analysis. Battelle will perform a complete reservoir characterization of the Utica-Point Pleasant shale play in Ohio and gather production and operational data from participating JIP members. The collected data will be used to develop recommendations and proposals for the field trials.

Phase II will consist of field testing of the recommended method(s) at a well operated by one of the participating partners. It is expected to begin in the summer of 2016 and will run for 12 to 18 months.

All JIP participants will have access to all of the data and analysis that comes out of this project. The end goal is to develop a set of recommendations and best practices for extracting petroleum from the oil-rich leg of the Utica-Point Pleasant shale play that runs from northeast Ohio down through central and southeastern Ohio. This could potentially open up hundreds of thousands of acres that are currently considered uneconomical in the Utica-Point Pleasant shale play.

Current JIP participants include Artex Oil Company, PDC Energy, Inc., NGO Development Corporation, Inc., Bakerwell, Inc. and Solid Rock Energy, Inc.