Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Norse Files for its Third Shale Gas Horizontal

[Update April 2, 2012:  The proposed Spacing Unit Map associated with this application has been obtained in PDF form and uploaded here.]

Chenango County is starting to look like it could become Upstate New York's Pioneer of Marcellus and Utica Shale Gas, what with all three post-moratorium drilling permit applications being situated in that rural locale.

Technically, New York's tortured SGEIS process has still not fully run its course, and the shale gas moratorium remains in place.  But there's been one exploration and production company getting in line way early for drilling permits, in anticipation that the temporary ban will be declared over sometime in 2012.

The NYS DEC's public database of regulated wells shows Norse Energy on Nov. 14 put in another application — this time for a full-on horizontal Marcellus shale gas well to be called the Martin, C. 1H.  The proposed well pad location maps out near the uphill corner of Jones Hill Road and Town Line Road in the Town of McDonough.  If it ever happens, the outermost reach of the horizontally running drillbit would be deep under the valley of Genegantslet Creek, about one full mile away, across Route 220 in the Town of Smithville.

This blog previously broke the news on two similar applications, both also from Norse:  The Norse-Housing 1H, New York's first-ever-proposed full-on horizontal Utica project, in the Town of Smyrna.  And the Nowalk, R. 3H, Town of Smithville, which ranked as New York's first-proposed full-blown Marcellus application — but only as measured since the end of New York's now-nearly-four-year-old shale gas moratorium has finally come into view.

The royalty-paying unit which is proposed to include the Martin, C. 1H — together with follow-up horizontals — would be 320.38 acres.  That's only about half the size of how these sorts of projects have been typically envisioned and promoted.  Bigger units imply more wells or longer laterals from the same well pad, and therefore also lower overall surface impact.

The Marcellus shale layer is expected to be reached 3,055 feet deep at this latitude, and the driller's fully drilled depth (vertical, plus the turn, plus the horizontal) is expected to be 8,241 feet.

One final point of interest I just happened to notice in connection with this well:  As is true with much of Chenango County, there is so much state forest land scattered about in this immediate area, it is practically certain that New York State itself could expect to have significant acreage either voluntarily or compulsorily integrated by this unit. 

What that means is — under the state's ultra-conservationist forced pooling law — the DEC as assigned representative of the state's land-bound mineral interest would face three options, the same as any unsigned owner.  (Three options, that is, beyond simply voluntarily negotiating a lease with the operator.)  The formally established process forces unsigned owners to choose between:  1) Collecting a baseline royalty, the same as the lowest private deal in the unit, but no less than 12.5 percent.  2) Letting the driller "carry" them, in exchange for production profit once the well has paid for itself three times back.  3) Ponying up enough cash to fully participate in the well.

Under state law, there is no fourth option — the minority interest veto option so yearned for by anti-drilling activists — so long as the operator holds deals with ready, willing, and eager owners of at least 60 percent of the involved acreage, including the wellsite itself and any access path.

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