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Ohio Utica shale gas permitting activity flat in July

Ohio's Utica Shale gas permitting in July was flat year over year as the state's largest producer slowed its activity while two other big operators resumed activity for the summer, the latest state data showed.

Ascent Resources split its seven permits for Utica wells, 30% fewer than July 2018, between dry gas Noble County and Harrison County in the liquids-rich, wet gas window of the play, according to Ohio Department of Natural Resources data as of Aug. 13.

After a month's layoff, Encino Energy LLC pulled three permits in dry gas Jefferson County, while Norwegian oil and gas giant Equinor ASA pulled three permits for dry gas in Monroe County. A year ago, neither company was issued a permit in July.

Led by former executives from Range Resources Corp., Encino bought Utica pioneer Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s Utica wells and leases for roughly $2 billion in October 2018. The private company is backed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

The Utica drilling community is shifting toward privately backed drillers as publicly traded exploration and production companies such as Chesapeake and EQT Corp. either sell their positions or ration the number of deeper, more expensive Utica wells they drill in an environment where cost control has become more important to investors than growth.

Gulfport Energy, once Ohio's largest producer by volume, has said it will lay down its remaining Utica rig this quarter in reaction to low gas prices. The company halted drilling in the third quarter of 2018 only to resume in the winter.

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