Ohio to provide data from 87 new oil and gas wells

Thu May 16, 2013 11:34am EDT

* Data will offer first insight to Utica's worth

* Figures to be released on Thursday

* Utica touted as major new oil and gas frontier

NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters) - The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will on Thursday publish production results from oil and gas wells drilled last year in the Utica shale formation, offering the first glimpse of the true size and scope of what many have touted as the next U.S. energy frontier.

Data from 87 new wells in the Utica will be made public for the first time at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), the department said, giving detail on how much natural gas, liquids or oil has been produced from each well, lifting some of the secrecy surrounding the nascent play.

While companies have given details on progress of some wells, until now there has been no comprehensive database showing all the producing wells in the Utica.

In Ohio, where shale drilling began in 2011, production data is made public only once a year, which has made it difficult to gauge if the play is the success many drillers say it is.

In most other producing states, data is made public every quarter.

Last year, data was offered from just five producing wells drilled by Chesapeake Energy, the dominant driller in the state.

But this year's numbers will offer a greater insight into the success of companies that have staked billions in the state, and whether the Utica will be as prolific as other shale plays like the Eagle Ford in Texas and the Marcellus in Pennsylvania that have transformed the U.S. energy outlook in recent years.

Aubrey McClendon, head of Chesapeake until earlier this year, once described the Utica as a potential $500 billion gusher and "the biggest thing to hit Ohio since the plow".

But enthusiasm has waned, with major drillers including Chesapeake and Devon Energy selling acreage in what was originally expected to be an oil-rich part of the play. Some analysts have expressed concern that the Utica may hold larger reserves of less-lucrative natural gas than of oil.