A new report by Ross Smith Energy Group notes that 40 horizontal rigs are currently at work in the Marcellus shale play in the northeastern U.S., and results continue to improve. Operators currently expect to recover some 4.4 billion cubic feet of gas from the average Marcellus well drilled in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington, Greene and Fayette counties, and northern West Virginia’s Wetzel County. Similar per-well volumes are calculated in the northeastern slice of the play, in Bradford, Lycoming and Susquehanna counties, Pennsylvania. It’s interesting that the two areas appear to deliver equivalent per-well recoveries, because the Marcellus is much thicker (by about two to three times) in the northeast hot-spot than in the southwest portion. But, porosities are apparently higher (by meaningful percentages) in the latter area. Questions now swirl around the middle of the play, a neighborhood that seems not to have the advantages of either thick shales or high porosities. “It’s not known yet whether the central region of the play (Centre, Clearfield and Cambria counties) will produce comparable economics to the northeast or southwest areas,” say analysts Manuj Nikhanj and Brook Murray. More well results are needed to determine if the Marcellus’ midsection can be as commercial as its ends. --Peggy Williams, Senior Exploration Editor, Oil and Gas Investor Contact me at pwilliams@hartenergy.com