BP said Tuesday its exploration program will focus on the Utica/Point Pleasant shale formation, which its experts say is "very promising."
The European company is the latest oil major to enter one of the latest North American oil discoveries and one regarded with widespread optimism.
Utica/Point Pleasant is a relatively new shale basin that consists of a potentially significant liquids-rich gas source, adding an important energy source to BP's onshore gas portfolio in North America.
'"We are very encouraged by what we have seen of the Utica/Point Pleasant formation," said Tim Harrington, regional president for BP's North America Gas business.
BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay said the deal "will create jobs, bolster the local economy and provide additional sources of energy."
McKay said the company intended to bring "the highest industry safety and environmental management practices to the project."
BP signed an agreement to lease about 84,000 acres in Trumbull County, Ohio, with the Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley, a group representing local mineral owners.
ALOV members voted March 26 to approve the lease but terms of the agreement, to be executed with each landowner, remain confidential.
The Utica/Point Pleasant shale is at a depth of about 6,000 feet, with the potential to deliver higher liquids rates. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates a recoverable Utica shale potential of 1.3 billion-5.5 billion barrels of oil and 3.8 trillion-15.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
BP has active shale positions in Woodford, Haynesville, Fayetteville and Eagle Ford.
Through its heritage companies of Standard Oil of Ohio and Amoco, BP activities in Ohio date to 1870. BP operates the BP-Husky refinery near Toledo which it owns in a joint venture with Husky, LLC.
BP is the second largest oil and gas producer and employer in the United States with a workforce of about 23,000 people. And it is the sixth largest U.S. producer of natural gas with an energy portfolio that includes wind power, biofuels and an emerging ventures business.
BP's capital investments in the United States from 2007-11 totaled more than $52 billion. It says the group invests more in the United States than in any other country and reinvests all profits back into U.S. operations.