Utica shale

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The Utica shale formation ranges between 300 and 1,000 feet thick. It is an Upper Ordovician black to gray-black shale that is 440 to 460 million years old. It is considerably deeper than the Marcellus shale which is part of the Middle Devonian formation. It is immediately below the Lorraine shale formation. Utica shale is a porous, thick, brittle, over-pressured and thermally mature source rock. These factors are very conducive to artificial fracture stimulation.

Utica shale was deposited very widely across the Appalachian Basin and into Ontario. It covers several thousand square miles and generally trends north-south.

The Flat Creek Member forms the base of the Utica shale, and it rests discontinuously on the Trenton formation. The middle member is the Dolgeville, and the top one is the Indian Castle. Each shale interval has its own unique geological makeup.

The commercial Utica shale play is located in the Saint Lawrence Lowlands of Quebec, Canada, and in central New York especially in Chenango, Delaware, Herkimer, Oneida and Otsego Counties. The Canadian and U.S. parts of the play are separated by the Adirondack dome. Utica shale (aka Collingwood shale) also underlies much of the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, but is virtually undeveloped there with the exception of one well drilled in Missaukee County, MI during the winter of 2010. There also has been some very limited exploration of the Collingwood (Utica) shale in southwestern Ontario, Canada. During 2010, several companies were investigating Ohio, especially the eastern half of the state, as an area prospective for natural gas, natural gas liquids, and oil from the Utica shale formation.

In fact, the Utica shale formation as a whole is relatively underdeveloped, so the quantity of natural gas it holds as well as commercial viability are difficult to assess given so little drilling experience. However, there has been some apparent success in drilling the Utica shale formation in the Saint Lawrence Lowlands, Province of Quebec, Canada. Should commercial quantities of Utica shale gas also be verified in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the formation could be developed with minimum cost and environmental side effects since the necessary infrastructure has already been put in place to develop the Marcellus shale.

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