Tickers in this Article: UPL, EQT, QEP, NFG, PVA
Ultra Petroleum (NYSE:UPL) continued its double-digit production growth in the first quarter of 2011 on the strength of its natural gas development programs in the Marcellus Shale and Pinedale plays.

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Q1 Recap
Ultra Petroleum reported production of 55.8 billion cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe) during the first quarter of 2011, a 15% increase from the 48.5 Bcfe of production in the first quarter of 2011. Almost all of this production was natural gas, as this exploration and production company is one of the few that hasn't rabidly pursued oil development over the last year.

Ultra Petroleum core area is the Pinedale Field in Wyoming, and the company is still reaping the benefits of its entry into this play. The company drilled 59 gross wells here during the first quarter of 2011, bringing its total well count to more than 1,500 since entering the field in 1999.

Ultra Petroleum is not finished with the Pinedale despite the high well count and estimates it has 5,000 more drilling locations on its acreage. The company is also becoming more efficient at drilling in the Pinedale and reported a spud to total depth of 13 days for an average well during the quarter, down from around 20 days in 2009.

Other companies active in the Pinedale Field include QEP Resources (NYSE:QEP), which reported 16.2 Bcfe of production from here during the first quarter of 2011.

Marcellus Shale
Ultra Petroleum drilled 31 gross wells into the Marcellus Shale during the first quarter of 2011, bringing its total well count to 185 gross wells since the company started developing this play in 2009.

Ultra Petroleum also reported a well in Tioga County that was drilled and completed with a 6,700 foot horizontal lateral and 27 fracturing stages. The company indicated that the results were so strong that the well's estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) could be 8.0 Bcfe - more than double what was initially expected.

Other companies that have acreage in Tioga County that may accrue a benefit from the higher EUR's include EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT), which spud its first well here in April 2011, and plans to drill 10 more here in 2011. Penn Virginia (NYSE:PVA) has 56,000 net acres under lease in Potter and Tioga County and plans to drill up to 13 net wells on its acreage in 2011.

In January 2011, National Fuel Gas (NYSE:NFG) announced the purchase of Marcellus Shale acreage in Tioga County from EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG). The company paid $23 million for the properties.

The Bottom Line
Ultra Petroleum worked on the rapid development of the Marcellus Shale and Pinedale plays, as these two premier natural gas areas in the United States powered the company's production growth during the first quarter of 2011. (So you've finally decided to start investing. But what should you put in your portfolio? Find out here. Check out How To Pick A Stock.)

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