New State Drilling Depth Record Reached in Lawrence County
Despite continued low energy prices that have reduced exploratory drilling in Kentucky, an oil and gas operator has set a new drilling depth record for the state. Chesapeake Appalachia LLC drilled the LAW 1 Northup Estate well in Lawrence County to a measured vertical depth of 15,950 feet (14,858 feet below sea level) in 2015. Records for this well were released on December 5.
The previous Kentucky depth record dated back to 1977, at 15,200 feet in the Exxon No. 1 Duncan well in Webster County. The Northup Estate well was drilled to test the Cambrian Rogersville Shale (Conasauga Group) and Rome Formation in the Rome Trough, a deep fault-bounded basin in the Appalachian Basin of eastern Kentucky. The older Exxon well tested similar-age rocks in the deep Rough Creek Graben, an analogous structure in the Illinois Basin of western Kentucky. The Chesapeake well took 67 days to drill, while the Exxon well required 104 days, demonstrating the improvements in drilling technology during the 40 years between the projects. The Rogersville Shale was identified as an organic-rich hydrocarbon source rock by KGS research in 2002, as part of a regional study by the Rome Trough Consortium.
The Chesapeake Northup was completed as an oil and gas well, but no hydrocarbon shows or production was reported on documents submitted to the Kentucky Division of Oil and Gas. The drilling records are now available through the KGS oil and gas records database. Chesapeake has received a permit to drill a horizontal lateral from the Northup vertical well, but this additional drilling has not begun.
The Northup well is the second deep test drilled by Chesapeake in Lawrence County to evaluate the oil and gas potential of the Conasauga Group and Rome Formation. Other wells in the emerging Rogersville Shale unconventional play include the Bruin Exploration No. 1 Young well in Lawrence County and the Horizontal Technology Energy No. 572360 EQT Production well in Johnson County. Bruin Exploration is currently drilling its second Rogersville test, a horizontal well 3 miles southwest of the record-setting Northup well.