Thanks to new drilling techniques, the United States is sitting atop a gas bonanza. Just how much natural gas? That depends whom you ask. But whatever the current estimates are, they are likely to rise in the near future thanks to a new shale play called the Utica Shale, which some believe is destined to become the premiere gas field in the world.    

Meet the drillers
Intrigued by the prospects of the Utica, Consol Energy (NYSE: CNX) drilled a well last year and recovered more gas in a 24-hour period than any of the company's wells located in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. Consol is spending $35 million on six more exploratory wells this year. And other companies are following suit.   

Chevron (NYSE: CVX) has access to 623,000 acres of the Utica Shale thanks to the company's recent acquisition of Atlas Energy. Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) is so confident in the Utica's potential that the company recently invested $1 billion in acquiring leasing rights -- without even testing the Utica's productivity.     

Range you can believe in
Range Resources
(NYSE: RRC), one of the first companies to discover the Marcellus shale, is also excited about the Utica's prospects. CEO John Pinkerton calls it "one of the most economic plays in North America." 

The reason is because the Utica Shale is partially located beneath the Marcellus Shale. This allows companies like Range Resources to tap another shale from the same well and substantially drive down costs in the process (a double dip, so to speak). Pinkerton predicts shareholders stand to make a "whole bunch of dough" from the deal.  

The bottom line
It should be noted shareholders of these companies won't make jack unless demand for natural gas surges, which I believe it will. So don't drag your feet on this investment opportunity. In 2004, few had heard of the Marcellus Shale; currently, it's one of the largest gas fields in the world. It is likely the potential of the Utica will soon be realized. Do your due diligence and act accordingly. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.