The discovery of new oil production (with associated gas) from the Devonian shales in western West Virginia in 1979 led to a tremendous increase in Devonian shale exploration and development in that area. The records of the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey indicate that over 40% of drilling permits issued in 1982 were for various zones in the Devonian shales. With the decline in the gas market, the number of Devonian shale gas wells has declined in 1983. Nevertheless, activity in Ritchie, Pleasants, and Wood counties has remained very high. That activity is a source of considerable practical information on Devonian shale exploration and development. In fact, that play has provided an active testing ground for a variety of theories and techniques. The information presented in this paper is derived largely from the experience of one operator, Rendova Oil Company of Midland, Texas. That organization has been active in West Virginia since 1980 and, through the end of 1983, has drilled over 40 Devonian shale wells. That effort has been a continuous learning process in all phases of exploration and development. This paper will attempt to share that experience by describing the methods and techniques that have been tried as well as Rendova's current practices. The discussion will include exploration rationale, drilling methods, and completion and production practices. In addition, we will discuss what we see as the major problems that remain in developing oil and gas reserves in the Devonian shales.

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