Operators embark on quiet rush to Rogersville

A HANDFUL of major US onshore operators are beginning initial exploration of the Rogersville shale after quietly leasing thousands of acres along the border between Kentucky and West Virginia.

Story by NOAH BRENNER in Upstream Magazine 7 November 2014

While the Appalachian basin is fast becoming the centre of the US natural gas industry through development of the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, the Rogersville could herald the region’s first major tight oil play.

Upstream understands that operators such as Cimarex Energy, Cabot Oil & Gas, Chesapeake Energy and Continental Resources are active in the play and others are believed to be studying it.

Cimarex Energy drilled and completed the first modern Rogersville shale test to date in Lawrence County, Kentucky earlier this year using a shell company.

Bruin Exploration, a Cimarex subsidiary according to filings with US securities regulators, at first permitted the Sylvia Young 1 well as a stratigraphic test but later amended the permit to an oil well.

The change allowed Cimarex to production test the well, which is not allowed for stratigraphic tests.

It is likely that the company initial permitted the well as a stratigraphic test because under Kentucky oil and gas regulations, Cimarex could keep secret the logs and other information gathered from the well indefinitely — information from production wells must eventually be released to the public.

Information regarding the completion and production test for the Silvia Young well remains confidential but sources indicated the well was fractured and tested with a flare. The completion report should become public in February.

Meanwhile, sources indicate that Cimarex continues to lease aggressively in the area using land services company Gulfland Appalachian Energy in Lawrence and Johnson counties. Cabot Oil & Gas finished drilling the second recent Rogersville test in Putnam County, West Virginia earlier this autumn.

The Houston independent permitted the Cabot 50 well to 14,000 feet and said it planned to intersect the Rogersville shale at around 13,855 feet, according to state records. The well was the first ever permitted in the state expressly targeting the Rogersville.

Cabot indicated on the permit that it planned a fracture stimulation job on the well but state records do not show that the frac job has been completed yet.

Chesapeake Energy is expected to be the third major operator to test the play this year. While no permits have been filed yet with Kentucky regulators, local sources indicated that the shale giant has begun site work for a Rogersville test in Lawrence County that would be within a mile of one of the historical deep wells that penetrated the formation.

All the locations are considered to lie on trend with the Exxon 1 Smith well, drilled in Wayne County, West Virginia in 1975 that cored the Rogersville formation.

Continental Resources has not permitted a well to date in the play but Upstream understands that land services company Exterra Resources continues leasing on behalf of Continental and Exterra is currently advertising to hire additional land staff for the area.