Antero Resources Corp (NYSE:AR) recently put out an operational update that included production numbers from the company's most recent Utica Shale well. The results were very good. This suggests a bright future is in store not just for Antero Resources, but also for companies like Magnum Hunter Resources Corp (NYSE:MHR) and Halcon Resources Corp (NYSE:HK), which are still just beginning to drill in the Utica Shale.

Rich results for Antero
Antero Resources drilled five Utica Shale wells since reporting third-quarter earnings. These wells delivered 24-hour peak processing rates of 32.2 MMcfe/d of natural gas. Even better was the fact that 65% of the production from these wells were liquids. Overall, the wells delivered an average of 1,897 barrels per day of natural gas liquids production in addition to 11.2 MMcf/d of dry natural gas.

These wells were even better than the 11 initial wells that Antero drilled into its core area of the Utica Shale. On average those wells delivered 30-day production rates of 445 barrels of NGLs per day in addition to 10.4 MMcf/d of natural gas, with liquids representing an average of 53% of the volumes. While the production from those wells were constrained, it is good to see Antero Resources' latest wells produce really liquids-rich results.

Others still waiting
Antero Resources' investors are starting to understand that the company is sitting on a solid position in the Utica. However, investors in both Halcon Resources and Magnum Hunter Resources are still waiting for that same proof.

So far Magnum Hunter Resources has only been able to book the reserves of one Utica Shale well. Even that well was still only partially completed after it suffered some issues downhole. However, given what Antero is seeing it's looking more likely that Magnum Hunter Resources, with nearly 100,000 net acres in the play, could be sitting on a real gold mine. Especially considering that a lot of its acreage in the Utica is located in Noble County where several of Antero's recent wells were drilled.

Halcon Resources is also just getting started in the Utica Shale. The company has only drilled a handful of wells so far and it's not planning to go all out in 2014 either, as it expects to run just one rig. However, early results look good, with test rates from two early wells achieving production rates of 2,233 BOE/d and 1,652 BOE/d respectively. What's compelling about that top well was the fact that it was very liquids-rich at 75% of production and much farther north than many of the recent liquids-rich wells. That suggests that there could be a bigger window for producers like Halcon Resources to drill for high value liquids.

Investor takeaway
There's no doubt about it that the Utica Shale has gotten off to a slower start than many producers had hoped. However, given the recent results from Antero and others, it's beginning to look like the play should deliver strong returns for these companies and their investors. While risk remains, the reward looks to be worth it.

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Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.