Why the Pt. Pleasant is Key to Utica Production


The Point Pleasant formation has been described as marking the end of Middle Ordovician time.  The Ordovician Period is characterized as the greatest submergence of the North American plate because shallow seas covered such an extensive area, including all of Ohio.  In this environment, the Acadian mountain-building event occurred whereby sediments high in kerogen were shed from the highlands into a somewhat enclosed basin, lowering the amount of available oxygen.  As they were buried and subject to the pressure and temperatures of the earth’s crust and core, the environment became conducive for the formulation of petrocarbons, especially oil and natural gas liquids. 

The appropriate balance of hydrogen and carbon along with the corresponding favorable oxygen/carbon ratio (along with suitable temperature levels) created primarily type one or two kerogen content materials.  Because they were formed from fossils containing mostly proteins and lipids, and to a lesser degree, from pollen, spores, or plant/animal decompositions, conditions became prime for oil or a mix of oil and wet gas. (*13)  It is particularly important to recognize that the Utica and especially the Point Pleasant have both been identified as having high TOC (total organic content) and type one or two kerogen levels, two of the most important factors to realize if you are indeed searching for wet petrocarbons i.e. oil or natural gas liquids.

The Point Pleasant is characterized as having “three westward-thinning tongues of calcareous strata separated by shalier eastward-thinning tongues.”  It is further described as being 60% limestone and 40% shale, interbedded, gray to bluish gray in color and up to 200’ thick in parts of Ohio.   A well log which I located from a Tuscararas County well showed the Utica/Pt. Pleasant merged to create a 255’ core with an excellent TOC as high as 3.73%.   Pretty damn impressive.  Chris Perry, chief geologist with ODNR, claims the Point Pleasant to be the sweet spot of the entire play, with the highest TOC and a propensity to be highly brittle and contain significant natural fractures.  Further, he claims formation thickness of as little as 50 feet to be commercially productive. 

ODNR’s Larry Wickstrom offers that the formation lies just beneath and adjacent to the Utica making the formation “actually thicker and higher in total organic content.  It is very unusual.  It is a black organic-rich crystalline limestone interlayered with black organic-rich shale.  The Utica is a wonderful rock, but it is even better with the Pt. Pleasant beneath it.  Since it is interlayered with the Pt. Pleasant, it is more frackable.”  He believe the Utica/Pt. Pleasant package covers most of Ohio, but to what extent it will be commercially productive remains to be seem.

It is important to recognize it as being calcareous shale because it contains a high calcium carbonate content derived from ancient algae, which is the perfect content for petroleum formation.  Consequently it is high in TOC and contains level one kerogen, making it a perfect source for formation of hydrocarbons, especially oil.   The Point Pleasant and the Utica are both identified as having a much higher carbonate and lower mineral clay content than the Marcellus.  It is exceptionally similar to the Eagle Ford.  If only we are so lucky.  Production and fracking techniques will likely be borrowed from experience gained in the Eagle Ford play. 

The characteristics described in the preceding two paragraphs could easily be used to describe the Bakken.  It is not a true shale play.  Instead, it is various limestone and sandstone formations interbedden with shale.  Consequently, it can achieve optimum production only through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  If this play is even remotely similar to the Bakken, we will truly be blessed.  I am a believer.  Of course, it may turn out to be more similar to the Eagle Ford……another good option.  Our advantage over these two tremendous plays is significant.  We are shallower, and will incur lower drilling costs. We can use fewer fracking stages and shorter laterals; and we have infrastructure in place to piggy-back off. 

Gulfport Energy, who holds a leasehold interest in the Utica Shale in Ohio of as much as 65,000 net acres, has released the following prospectus as to their interest in the Utica shale here.  They purport to have a drilling cost of less than or equal to the Bakken or the Eagle Ford.  Further, and or more importance,  they purport to have more oil in place, a higher recovery factor, better average formation thickness, and a much higher porosity then either the Bakken or the Eagle Ford.  If they are only half right, this will truly be the best shale play in America, based upon potentially productivity and the simple economics of the deal.  I may be biased, but my bias is based upon thorough research, which I deem to be most reliable.

Generally speaking, the Point Pleasant exists above the base of the Trenton limestone to the base of the Cincinnati group (Kope Formation).  Of importance is noting that the source rocks of the Trenton limestone and the Point Pleasant formation have been credited with generating 75 billion bbl of oil.  Of this, due to permeability of subsequent formations, some has migrated into the Silurian reservoirs, including the Clinton Sandstone.

Is the Pt. Pleasant really the key to the entire Utica Shale play here in Ohio?  Time will tell, but so far it seems certain that the most productive areas certainly appear where the formation is quite prevalent.  It seems to work almost like a conventional reservoir which traps hydrocarbons as they are migrating into the Utica.  Word is that most frack jobs actually occur into the Pt. Pleasant rather than the Utica itself.  It seems to be a wonderful trap for the condensate and NGL’s which exist in the area and which have been the source for much of the production and the hoopla associated therewith. 

It is likely no coincidence that the wells drilled further North in Ohio have been disappointing.  The Utica is much thicker in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, and BP and Halcon had hoped this would offset the nonexistence of the Pt. Pleasant there.  So far they have been disappointed, Halcon so much so that they have abandoned their Ohio operations entirely.  Perhaps technology will be developed soon to maximize results in that area and Halcon will reappear.  Their leasehold is entirely HBP and unlikely to change in status anytime in the near future.  For now, they seem more interested in pursuing the TMS (Tuscaloosa Marine Shale).

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Comment by Tim on October 18, 2014 at 10:40pm

What information do you have on the Northern Utica across Mckean, Potter, and Tioga counties in PA?
Comment by John H on June 1, 2014 at 6:23pm

Regarding the Trenton/Black River source rocks, I will have another excerpt from my book posted soon.....

Comment by INVICTUS on April 2, 2014 at 8:53am

Thanks for the detailed post!

Any info on the Trenton/ Black River?

I saw a number of stratigraphic wells that were plugged back before operators drilled the Point Pleasant.

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