The company said that preliminary estimates suggest that the value of the reserves related to these 1,600 leased acres in Wetzel County of northwest West Virginia from the existing 60 wells located on the leases could amount to nearly $19.7m.

Westmont believes that with additional exploration, an additional 30 wells could be drilled on the leased acreage increasing the potential reserves for the entire project by an estimated $9.3m, or a combined estimated value for the new West Virginia leases of $29m.

Representing roughly 61,000sq miles, it stretches from Upper New York, through western Pennsylvania and into eastern Ohio and most of Kentucky and West Virginia and parts of Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.

The shale contains largely untapped natural gas reserves, and its proximity to the high-demand markets along the East Coast makes it an attractive target for energy development, according to the company.