SALEM - The oil and gas drilling rig count in the Utica/Point Pleasant Shale play remained at 47 for the week ending Aug. 2, with all the wells being drilled in the Utica shale.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, there were seven permits issued, all in Belmont County with four to Gulfport Energy Corporation and three to American Energy Utica.
American Energy is an affiliate of former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon's new company, American Energy Partners.
With Chesapeake, McClendon spearheaded the huge drive to open the Utica and Marcellus Shale play in eastern Ohio on thousands of acres in Columbiana, Carroll and Jefferson counties and further south.
Gulfport Energy, a company that has consistently produced premium wells, is heavy with operations in Belmont County and among the first to sense the southern sweep to the better wells. While the sweet spot is still be defined, Gulfport has big holdings in Belmont, Guernsey and Monroe counties.
During its second-quarter earnings call on Thursday, Gulfport CEO, President and Executive Director Michael Moore said the company started in the Utica two-and-a-half-years ago and it has learned a lot, but continues to analyze new data from the play while also looking to develop the assets.
Moore spoke during the call which was transcribed on the Seeking Alpha website.
Gulfport wants to do it "in a way that yields optimum near-term and long-term results," he said and noted that Gulfport was one first operators in the Utica and, in a short period, has acquired a considerable amount of science to help develop the play to yield optimal results.
Improvements continue in spud-to-rig release and average feet-per-day drilling numbers increase.
"During the second quarter, one of the drilling teams' initiative was to focus on the high grading of equipment for our rig fleet," Moore said.
"While we are still in the middle of this process, Gulfport drilled 20 wells in the second quarter with an average drill time of approximately 24 days per well, a decrease of 39 percent over the average drill days of 2013.
The average number of feet drilled per day in the play also increased by 52 percent over 2013.
He said the drilling team set company records during the quarter with the longest lateral to date of 11,147 feet and spud-to-rig release time of less than 14 days, which meant they were drilling approximately 1,025 feet per day.
"As we make progress at the drill bit, for the remainder of 2014 and looking into 2015, Gulfport will remain focused on creating efficiencies that enable the company to shorten drill times and increase levels of field activity with our current rig fleet."
Gulfport brought 10 wells on line in the Utica, eight in the wet gas window and two in the condensate window of the play.
Moore said Gulfport sits in a unique position, relative to its peers, because it was the first mover in securing early transport to premium markets.
He added, "Gulfport continues to acquire acreage in its focus area in Ohio and West Virginia and today, has approximately 184,500 acres under lease.
"Our team firmly believes adding on top of our top-tier position is an accretive investment for the company, as we add new acreage to block up units and increase our position in one of North America's premier shale plays."
He said Gulfport has increased the number of employees by 258 percent "just entering the Utica" and added, "in summary, with 2.5 years of drilling in Ohio under our belts and over 60 wells producing, we believe Gulfport sits in a very unique position compared to other companies in the play.