West Virginia Trenton deep gas play turning heads

Plays for gas in Ordovician and perhaps Cambrian zones in central West Virginia have grabbed the attention of many formerly without interest in Appalachian basin operations. Columbia Natural Resources Inc., Charleston, W.Va., touched off the play about 18 months ago with a Trenton discovery in Roane County that evidenced bottomhole pressures of 6,600 psia and indicated flow capabilities of around 50 MMcfd (see map, OGJ, Nov. 8, 1999, p. 81).


Plays for gas in Ordovician and perhaps Cambrian zones in central West Virginia have grabbed the attention of many formerly without interest in Appalachian basin operations.

Columbia Natural Resources Inc., Charleston, W.Va., touched off the play about 18 months ago with a Trenton discovery in Roane County that evidenced bottomhole pressures of 6,600 psia and indicated flow capabilities of around 50 MMcfd (see map, OGJ, Nov. 8, 1999, p. 81).

CNR in late 1999 said it had similar results at a second well and was drilling a third. It said it would �celebrate its 100th year of continuous development operation in the Appalachian basin� in 2000 with an unparalleled expansion that called for $145 million in capital spending and the drilling of 330 wells throughout the basin.

CNR�s success has led to the staking by the company and other operators of about 20 exploratory tests to Ordovician or deeper formations in southeastern Roane County, 20-30 miles northeast of Charleston.

On Feb. 28, 2000, however, CNR parent Columbia Energy Group announced it was to be acquired by NiSource Inc., Merrillville, Ind., parent of Northern Indiana Public Service Co. The merger is awaiting US Securities & Exchange Commission approval.

CNR has made no further public statements since then regarding its gas plays in West Virginia and the Finger Lakes area of western New York State. However, field sources say that at least one of CNR�s wells has produced 3 bcf of gas in 30 days and that pressure control has been a significant consideration in well completion.

One source told OGJ that as much as 3,000 ft of Cambrian sediments may exist beneath the Ordovician carbonates in at least one of the areas CNR is working.

CNR completed an 8-in. pipeline in late 1999 to transport gas from the wells in Roane County, which it dubbed Cottontree field. This area is part of a cluster of drilled and permitted wells 2-5 miles west of Amma, W.Va. Other clusters are 5-6 miles west of Minnora, 3-4 miles east of Looneyville, and 4-5 miles west of Looneyville.

Permits for all of the wells are 10,000 ft or deeper. One independent, Ardent Resources Inc., Bethel Park, Pa., in August staked a 15,000-ft test to Cambrian in Calhoun County northeast of the present play.

Lease prices are said to have exceeded $300/acre in some areas.

More specific information is not forthcoming partly because state regulations afford operators long periods of confidentiality. Before the onset of this activity, fewer than two dozen wells had penetrated Ordovician zones in the state.

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