Read the rest of the article here (subscription required). Read a free blog post about it from the Akron Beacon Journal here.Privately held EnerVest, with its publicly traded arm EV Energy Partners LP, plans to shed 539,000 acres above the Utica, a dense layer of rock that many believe holds great petroleum wealth. The firm is pursuing a sale by the end of the year that would be the largest in the company’s 20-year history and mean a big payday for its institutional investors.EnerVest wound up with this would-be bounty almost by happenstance. The Houston-based company had been acquiring drilling rights to the Utica in Ohio since 2003 but had no intention of tapping it or any notion of its potential. Instead, it was targeting deposits at different depths than the Utica that were known to contain oil and gas, pursuing its usual strategy of buying drilling rights to traditional energy fields and coaxing greater output from them.But EnerVest and other companies in the last year have begun to unlock vast fossil-fuel deposits from the Utica through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” transforming old properties in Ohio’s Rust Belt into hot prospects.“We’re not very smart,” said John Walker, EnerVest’s founder and chief executive, acknowledging that he hadn’t foreseen the Utica’s promise. “But good things happen when you have a lot of acreage.”EnerVest has spent about $1.2 billion in northeastern Ohio over the last decade to become the state’s biggest energy producer.EnerVest is selling drilling rights to 70% of its Utica acreage, where it has completed four wells in addition to 58 drilled by partner Chesapeake Energy Corp. A buyer would become Chesapeake’s partner on the wells the Oklahoma City company has drilled. The acreage EnerVest is selling is a net figure consisting of tracts it owns outright and properties co-owned with other companies, some of which operate the wells there. EnerVest is holding onto 231,000 net Utica acres whose potential isn’t as well established.
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