BP Enters The Utica Shale

By Eric Fox | March 29, 2012 AAA

BP (NYSE:BP) has leased acreage in Ohio that is prospective for the Utica Shale, as the company looks to increase its presence in unconventional oil and gas basins in the United States. To know more about oil and gas, read Oil And Gas Industry Primer.
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Utica Shale
BP reported that it has leased 84,000 acres in Trumbull County, Ohio. The agreement was executed with the Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley (ALOV), a group that represents mineral owners in the area. BP did not disclose the timing of any development plans for the acreage.

The company is involved with Husky (TSE:C.HSE) in a joint venture that owns a refinery in Ohio. The company can presumably transport future production from the Utica Shale to this facility for refinement into finished products. The refinery has a current capacity of 160,000 barrels per day.

One issue that BP faces is that the terms of the lease have to be negotiated individually with each separate mineral owner. This may be a cumbersome process and a possible impediment to an aggressive development program.

Another issue for investors to consider is that there has been no Utica Shale drilling activity to date in Trumbull County, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Most Utica Shale drilling permits have been issued to the south in Carroll, Columbiana and Jefferson Counties. Find out how to invest and protect your investments in this slippery sector. For more, see What Determines Oil Prices?

Other Assets
BP already has a large footprint in North America and is producing approximately two billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. The company has acreage in various unconventional plays including the Woodford, Fayetteville, Haynesville and Eagle Ford Shales. It also has extensive natural gas properties in the Wamsutter Field in Wyoming and the San Juan Basin in New Mexico.

Other Utica Shale Players
Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) is far ahead of its competitors in the Utica Shale and is preparing for future production growth from this area. The company is involved in a partnership with EV Energy Partners (Nasdaq:EVEP) and plans to build a $900 million midstream complex to serve the area.

The facility will include cryogenic processing, fractionation plants and natural gas liquids storage, with the first phase of the complex expected to be in operation by 2013.

Gulfport Energy (Nasdaq:GPOR) is also involved with the Utica Shale and has 62,500 net acres under lease here. The company is currently drilling its first well and plans to spend between $72 million and $76 million here in 2012.

The Bottom Line
BP has joined the throng of energy companies crowding into the Utica Shale. Although the company is behind many of its competitors, it has the financial and operational depth to aggressively develop this new play and close the gap. For additional reading, check out A Guide To Investing In Oil Markets.

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At the time of writing, Eric Fox did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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