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Encana leaving Michigan

A leading producer of natural gas in Michigan is pulling out. Encana is a Canadian company that spearheaded a recent boom in drilling for shale gas in the state.

Encana has drilled most of the wells in Michigan using the method known in the industry as horizontal hydraulic fracturing. It is sometimes referred to as fracking.

These wells are expensive--millions of dollars per well, rather than hundreds of thousands for conventional wells--use huge volumes of water and tap into natural gas deposits at depths that were not explored here until 2010.

The methods are also controversial and there have been petition drives to ban them.

An Encana spokesman says the company recently sold its mineral rights in Michigan to Marathon Oil and will focus on more profitable operations elsewhere.

So far this year, no company has drilled a deep shale gas well in Michigan using unconventional methods. State records show the last one drilled was in May of 2013 by Encana. The company also has more than a dozen permits to drill more wells in Kalkaska County.

Most of the new action for the oil and gas industry lately is downstate, where developers are finding oil using conventional methods. The upcoming auction of public mineral rights shows strong interest in Roscommon County.