As oil and gas exploration/production companies go, Gulfport Energy Corporation is not generally considered one of the heavy hitters. But, having increased its production output by 60 percent in 2013, it has clearly become a success story nonetheless. Though vice president of operations Mark Malone has only been with the business since November 2013, his tenure has been long enough to understand what’s at the heart of Gulfport Energy’s whirlwind of growth. “We have a motto: plan to work, work to plan,” he says. “That’s been our focus. And to do that, you’ve got to be qualified for it.”
Gulfport Energy got its start in 1997 as a Southern Louisiana-based pure-play company. As it expanded, it also developed interests in North American regions such as the Permian Basin (in West Central Texas) and the Canadian Oil Sands (in Northern Alberta), but its presence in Eastern Ohio’s portion of the Utica Shale formation is what has taken the business to the next level. “We’re a pretty small company and quickly recognized the amount of people that would need to be added to get the work accomplished,” Malone says.
38.2 trillion cubic feet of gas
Drilling into and producing from the Utica formation started in Québec back in 2006 and in New York in 2009, but it didn’t occur in Ohio until 2011. One year later, the US Geological Survey estimated that the Ohio portion of the formation held 38.2 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered gas, 940 million barrels of oil, and 208 million barrels of natural gas liquids. Gulfport made a play for territory in late 2010 and spud its first well in early 2012.
Tapping into more of its territory came next, and as of March 31, 2014, Gulfport had spud 75 wells in the Utica formation—with 50 of them completed. “At the end of March, Gulfport had brought online 50 wells in the Utica [formation] and had leased approximately 179,000 net acres in the play,” Malone says. “When you put that in perspective, at this same time last year, we had online two wells and had leased approximately 128,000 net acres. So, in one year’s time, that’s a pretty productive program.” The plan is to reach 85–95 gross wells in the Utica formation by the end of 2014.
With drilling activity comes rigs, and Gulfport has seven of them operating in the Utica formation. And, thanks to its partnerships with MarkWest Energy Partners, Gulfport now has crucial “gathering and processing arrangements” as well. “It’s one thing to produce oil and gas; it’s another thing to be able to get it to market,” Malone says. “There was not a large amount of pipeline infrastructure to start with, so MarkWest has had to build out the necessary infrastructure to produce these wells. That’s been quite a challenge, but one that they have been successful with.”