Report: Pennsylvania natural gas production rises, drilling decreases

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Guernsey Co. shale well rig
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Natural gas production in Pennsylvania increased while new well drilling decreased in 2019, according to the 2019 Oil and Gas Annual Report, released Sept. 14, by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The report also notes improved permit review efficiency. The department is also exploring new partnerships to address orphan wells, identifying better restoration practices, and developing better ways to manage stormwater on well sites.

Production from natural gas wells continues to increase. More than six billion MCF of natural gas was produced, continuing an upward trend from previous years.

In 2019, 1,705 drilling permits were issued, 1,475 unconventional and 230 conventional. There were 787 wells drilled, 615 unconventional and 172 conventional. The department conducted 35,324 inspections and found 5,496 violations. It collected $4.1 million in fines and penalties.

The department continues to identify and plug orphan and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, many of which predate regulatory oversight — a result of Pennsylvania’s 160-year history of oil and gas development. It estimates that there may be as many 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the state, which can leak methane into the air and possibly contaminate groundwater or surface water. The department and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have begun a field study in the Cornplanter State Forest to measure methane leakage from identified orphan wells. This research will help DEP better estimate methane emissions from the thousands of orphaned and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania.

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