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Two Sides to the Marcellus

The Marcellus Shale covers more than 90,000 square miles in the northern Appalachian region, spreading across northern and western Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia (Figure 1). The Devonian-aged formation is primarily known for its dry gas and, despite depressed commodity prices in recent years, wellhead EURs across the basin remain in the top decile in the Lower 48.

FIGURE 1 | Marcellus Shale’s Extents in the Appalachian Basin

FIGURE 1 | Marcellus Shale’s Extents in the Appalachian Basin

In the early days of the play, producers concentrated in the northeastern region of Pennsylvania where the gross formation thickness can exceed 400 feet. Operators also have the optionality of targeting two zones in that region because of an effective frac barrier created by a thick middle carbonate member, the Cherry Valley limestone. With the recent upswing in NGL prices, operators shifted to focus on the southwest region of the play where a different kind of sweet spot exists.

Figure 2 provides a contrast for these two regions and highlights a drastic change in formation thickness, making the gross Marcellus effectively one zone. The southwest region of the play is also less thermally mature and contains higher total organic content, which translates to a more porous and liquids-prone rock.

Figure 2 | Type Log Comparison and Summary Statistics of the Marcellus Formation Between the NE and SW Regions of the Play

Figure 2 | Type Log Comparison and Summary Statistics of the Marcellus Formation Between the NE and SW Regions of the Play

The Marcellus is one of the earlier plays to exhibit a revitalization through modern drilling and completion techniques and is well delineated at this point. Despite the wide geological contrast in the Marcellus, improving NGL fundamentals give some operators more running room and an option to pivot within the basin.

 

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