Cabot Oil & Gas is getting ready to drill test wells in Ashland and surrounding counties in north-central Ohio.
"We’ve got a really neat group of geologists who think they see something in Ohio," said George Stark, a Cabot spokesman based in Pittsburgh. "They see something, and we want to go touch it."
Cabot is looking for natural gas and oil a hundred miles northwest of the Utica Shale play’s core in eastern Ohio.
The Houston-based company has filed paperwork with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for two well pads in Ashland County, and plans to drill up to five test wells in an area that includes parts of Richland, Knox, Wayne and Holmes counties.
"You don’t want one test to be the smile face or the frown face," Stark said. "You need more data."
Stark will talk about Cabot at the fifth annual Utica Midstream Conference Wednesday at the Barrette Center at Walsh University. The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and ShaleDirectories.com are presenting the conference.
During the early days of Utica exploration, Devon Energy drilled a few wells in the area Cabot is targeting, but moved on.
Cabot is planning to explore below the Utica Shale, Stark said.
Paperwork filed with ODNR indicates the company is targeting the Rome and Knox formations, but Stark declined to be specific. The agency has yet to issue the company a drilling permit.
The company plans to drill vertical wells and take samples that will show the ratio of oil to natural gas and the pressure and thickness of the rock, factors that determine whether it makes economic sense to drill more wells, Stark said.
Cabot has obtained the right to drill vertical wells into rock formations 3,000 to 4,000 feet beneath a natural gas storage field owned by Columbia Gas Transmission, but Cabot still needs to get horizontal-drilling rights from surface landowners.
Casings around the wells will isolate the wellbore from the storage field and any other formations that aren’t the target of the well, Stark said.
If Cabot’s exploration pays off, Canton, the self-styled Utica Capital, could find itself in a strategic spot between two drilling plays.
"Whether it’s Mansfield or Canton, I think there are opportunities from the supply chain, from the manufacturers, from lower gas costs, from more opportunities for the workforce," Stark said.
For the past 10 years, Cabot has been drilling Marcellus Shale horizontal wells in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County.
Cabot was producing natural gas from 561 horizontal wells at the end of 2017, and has another 3,000 undrilled Marcellus locations among its 172,000 acres in northeast Pennsylvania, according to the company’s latest investor presentation.
The company plans to drill approximately 85 wells in the Marcellus Shale this year.
Stark said Cabot has spent almost $5 billion in Susquehanna on wages, supply purchases, equipment rentals, well drilling and pipeline construction. Landowners in Susquehanna and a neighboring county have earned more than $1.5 billion in royalties and signing bonuses, according to the company.
With success have come problems, particularly in the community of Dimock, Pa., where residents complained of methane in their drinking wells after Cabot started drilling.
More than a dozen families sued, and the last of the cases settled in September after almost a decade of legal battles. Cabot maintained it didn’t cause the gas migration, and Stark said the company now does more testing for methane at the surface before drilling wells.
In December, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a $99,000 penalty against the company for excess emission of natural gas, and failing to submit reports on time.
Stark characterized the penalty as stemming from a paperwork issue.
Shane Hoover is a staff writer for The Canton Repository.