Natural gas production hit record high in Pennsylvania in 2020

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The pandemic may have put the brakes on drilling, but it did not slow the production of natural gas in Pennsylvania. In 2020, 7.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas came out of more than 10,000 unconventional wells. 

That’s the largest volume of natural gas produced in the state in a single year.

The data was part of the annual Oil and Gas Report compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The department released the report June 30.

Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the country, below Texas.

Other report highlights

While the state was pumping out the gas at a record rate, drilling was down. In all, 527 wells were drilled last year. Fewer new wells were drilled in 2020 than any year in the past decade.

This led to the lowest amount of impact fee revenue collected for the state and local municipalities since the Act 13 program began in 2011. Act 13 impact fees are collected on each new unconventional gas well drilled in the state. The fees are distributed to counties and municipalities with wells, as well as state agencies, to offset the impact of drilling. More than $146 million was collected from the 2020 reporting year, down $54 million from the previous year.

The state issued 918 unconventional drilling permits and 99 conventional well permits in 2020.

The DEP stayed busy throughout the pandemic, conducting 25,883 inspections on oil and gas well sites. That’s down about 10,000 from 2019. The DEP focused inspection priorities on emergency response situations and responses to public complaints early in 2020, as new protocols were developed to work around COVID-19. It ramped up inspections as the year went on.

The department found 9,363 compliance violations, the highest number of violations in eight years. Part of that might have been due to how the work inspectors did changed because of COVID.

DEP inspectors couldn’t do as many field inspections at active well sites, so they focused on pipelines, completed well sites and administrative inspections.

“This resulted in a significant increase in the number of observed erosion and sedimentation violations and well-plugging related violations than in prior years,” according to the report. “DEP inspectors observed a higher number of administrative violations such as the failure of operators to submit annual production and well integrity reports.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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