I have 170 acres in north Somerset county PA. For awhile now, I've heard the PSU professors say that the Utica was likely an Ohio play as the depth was too great in PA. In the Somerset/Cambria county areas, I believe the Utica runs 13 to 14000 feet deep. I recently read that Haliburton completed a well to 14,400 feet in Argentina. It's probably an oil well, but I will be following that development to see what they found at that depth.
From what I've heard, Shell is drilling to the Utica in Lawrence & Butler Counties.
Jim - Technically there is no real reason that they can not drill the Utica at that depth. If the hydrocarbons are there, they may drill for them someday. However, there are areas that are shallower and easier to drill now and it definitely won't be economical unless prices improve a lot. I believe some of the Haynesville was at similar depths. As you move north in PA, the Utica would be more accessible, but much will be dry gas.
Somerset county has the distinction of having the thickest Utica shale in the whole footprint with some sections over 500 feet thick.....The PSU professors say at 14000 feet, the area is likely overcooked and void of even dry gas....Of course, until someone actually drills it, it's all speculation.
This article shows Halliburton completed a horizontal Argentinian shale gas well at over 14000 feet.
I suspect those PSU professors are going to be premature in their call that western PA utica is overcooked due to depth.
PSU, professors don't drill gas and oil wells,the gas and oil companys do, and pass some of the info onto the universitys ?
A depth of 14,000' is not uncommon for an example check this out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon
The reason is the way the formations were created as illustrated in the separations of the Utica Shale as westward being oil producing and heading eastward where it turns into a gas formation.
I would assume though that while a company had a rig on sight if it felt that the Utica with 500' of thickness to drill into would produce they would do so and just layer the wells drilled from the pad.
Homer said it takes a special rig to drill that deep.
It might just at that when you consider the extra weight capabilities required of a rig to handle the distance. Of course also a consideration is the transportation of these bigger rigs. For example in Texas hauling a rig sure isn't the same as trying to take one down the Pa turnpike.
You have to define Western Pa. Beaver, Lawrence, and Mercer Counties are getting good lease offerings because of the Utica and its potential for wet gas. Crawford may also be in play.In Butler and others they are drilling the Utica for dry gas. South western pa like Westmoreland and Washington Utica have potential. Its more like central and eastern Pa that may be overcooked.
Drilling of any well depends upon economics - price of the commodity, cost of drilling per foot, cost of steel pipe, cost of logging, etc.
Which is more economic? a 14,ooo foot well producing 4.5 million per day, or a 5,600 foot well producing 4.5 million per day.
A lot of different thoughts floating around here... let me see if I can clarify or add a bit.
A 14,000' deep well in Appalachia and the Gulf of Mexico are very different - the gulf has a HUGE pile of geologically recent sediment and the Appalachian basin has some very old rock right near the surface. This has big implications for maturity, temperature, etc. Not that I'm blowing minds here, but you can't really bin different regions of the world solely on depth.
As well, depth can play a big factor in production - lets say you have an incredibly simplistic case, a uniform layer in every way, that dips down to the east - thus deeper to hit in the east then the west. You will likely have higher production in the east as the greater depth creates more pressure which can drive higher production rates.
SO, yes depth can be a big problem as you do need more material, bigger rigs etc. to reach the hydrocarbons. BUT, it may also increase your production. And to come back to the original question, the deeper you get the hotter it is and the more mature your hydrocarbons will be. At some point, yes you will overcook and be left with residue. Where that line is for the Utica I'm not sure we'll know for quite some time - most operators are more interested in the liquids to define the extent of the dry gas... but eventually they should.
Hope that helps some.