Exxon USA announced yesterday an "encouraging" gas find in the Baltimore Canyon adjacent to earlier natural gas discoveries by Texaco and Tenneco.

Exxon Chairman Clifton C. Garvin Jr. called the discovery "the most encouraging thing we have encountered so far (in the canyon area)." Exxon previously had drilled four dry test wells in the area.

The discovery is in block 599, approximately 100 miles east of Atlantic City, N.J. Garvin said the gas was discovered below 12,300 feet. Drilling at the test well is currently at depths of 13,162 feet, he said.

Exxon is permitted to drill to depths of 16,500 feet under its lease permit with the federal government.

Garvin said that while the discovery was encouraging, "The extent and commercial ability of these gas-bearing formations was still being determined by additional evaluation and drilling."

Company officials said yesterday that Exxon has all but given up on the area until Texaco discovered gas in the adjacent block 598 nearly two years ago. Tenneco subsequently discovered gas in another adjacent well. Exxon began drilling its test well in April.

So far, however, neither Texaco nor Tenneco have been able to determine the commercial viability of their discoveries. Texaco officials have said they believed there was a significant amount of gas under at least part of the company's block but weren't sure how much of it was recoverable.

Garvin said yesterday that Exxon had discovered gas in several layers of sand in its test drilling.