Maximizing Exploration Success: A new 3D Seismic Survey in the Appalachian Basin aims to unlock the region's potential

The Appalachian Basin’s Utica formation, which extends across much of Pennsylvania and Ohio, has a rich history in oil and gas production and has been a significant producing province since the first major discovery from the Thorla-McKee in 1814. The region is currently a hot spot for rich gas plays, particularly around the northern range. The first horizontal exploration wells were drilled in early 2011, and by early 2013, 500 permits had been issued and 210 wells drilled. The primary target in this area is the Point Pleasant-Utica Shale Formation, which lies above the Trenton Limestone. This formation consists of organic-rich carbonates and shales, offering higher source-rock potential than the overlying Utica Shale, and is characterized by low clay content and water saturation.

This week, TGS announced a new 3D seismic survey called Birmingham 3D, located on the western flank of the Appalachian Basin and sits just west of historic oil window in Utica – Point Pleasant trend. This survey aligns with the most prospective trend of the Utica-Point Pleasant formations and Clinton sandstone. As shown in Figure 1 below from TGS’s Well Data Analytics application, Birmingham is situated just up-dip of the Point Pleasant-Utica condensate and light oil trend, as imaged by TGS’s Utica Merge 3D. 

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Figure 1. TGS Well Data Analytics application showing Birmingham 3D, and all available TGS surveys in the area: Utica Merge 3D and Waterford 3D seismic surveys.

The Birmingham 3D survey will focus on the under-explored oil window of the Point Pleasant formation. By leveraging TGS’s extensive data library, which includes permit records, production data, and subsurface information, we can evaluate the full potential of the Appalachian Basin and provide valuable exploration insights for E&P companies. Figure 2 illustrates the geographical coverage of permits approved in this area since 2017, color-coded by operator, highlighting the active exploration, lease acquisitions, and study of geological and engineering characteristics by various operators. 

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Figure 2. TGS Well Data Analytics application displaying all permits issued in this area since 2017, colored by operator. 

The USGS estimates that the Point Pleasant-Utica Shale play holds upwards of 1.8 billion barrels of oil and 985 million barrels of natural gas liquid reserves. With only 130 million barrels of oil extracted so far, this area remains ripe for development. In 2023, Ohio's average oil production was approximately 1.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day from about 42,000 active wells, according to TGS Well Data Analytics (Figure 3). To aid in the evaluation of production targets and history, TGS provides a comprehensive set of well data, including interpretation-ready digital logs for the area. TGS's stratigraphic models have enabled accurate determination of each well's landing zone. As shown in Figure 3, most of the recent activity is concentrated in the eastern part of the state, with the Trenton Lime being one of the top-producing landing zones.

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Figure 3.  TGS Well Data Analytics application displaying all actively producing wells in Ohio, color-coded by their first production month. The figure also includes Ohio's daily total production history and production data categorized by landing zone. 

Leveraging TGS Well Data Analytics and TGS Seismic data enables swift comparative analysis and evaluation. For further details on Well Data Analytics or to schedule a demo, please contact us at