While oil and gas drilling is not new in Ohio, the combination of horizontal drilling and multistage hydraulic fracturing is causing many in the oil and gas business to see the Utica as a potential industry game-changer.

Expanding on its growth-oriented business strategy, Gulfport Energy Corp. , which has major operating areas in Southern Louisiana and the Permian Basin, turned its attention toward the potential of the Utica. After an opportunistic acreage search within the play, and with a little bit of luck and a lot of science, the company has developed a short but successful tenure in the area.

“It’s been quite a ride up there,” Jim Palm , Gulfport’s chief executive, said at Hart Energy ’s recent 2012 DUG East Conference in Pittsburgh. “We’ve been really pleasantly surprised with the results we got. I am sure we had a little luck, but I think we’ve got some science that went with it to produce the type of results that we’ve had.”

The company first began acquiring acreage in early 2011, according to Palm. Based on a geological and petrophysical analysis conducted by Gulfport’s scientific research team, along with an overlapping mapping technique, the company was able to target a proverbial “sweet spot” to begin acquisitions.

“First we targeted the liquids window and looked for the wet gas,” Palm said. “Our guys looked through the available research. We looked at the depth. We then looked at the total organic carbon (TOC), and we looked at the thickness. So when you overlay these maps we came up this sweet spot, and that’s where we started buying acreage in 2011.”

The company now has 62,500 net acres in the Utica.

After completing the leasing process, Gulfport enlisted the help of noted reservoir engineer Bill Von Gonten to conduct a bit of “pre-drilling science,” Palm said.

Van Gonten discovered some key factors that became essential to Gulfport’s drilling strategy, according to Palm.

“We learned some interesting things from Bill,” he said.  “Based upon some core information, Bill determined that the Eagle Ford and Point Pleasant are very similar reservoirs. You can see the porosity and permeability are very similar. One of the most important things is the calcite. These are very brittle formations, and that’s good because when the hydrocarbons are generated it’s like popping popcorn.

“Another unique thing that we see is the 3% water saturation. Bill also did some work