Appalachian Basin

Northeast Pennsylvania Leads U.S. Natural Gas Production

The US Energy Information Agency is an incredibly good resource for researching energy issues.  Recently, the agency highlighted the resurgence of the Northeast, more specifically Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA), as a major producing gas region.  According to EIA data the amount of natural gas being produced in Northeast Pennsylvania is simply astounding.  In fact, due in part to this production, Pennsylvania is on track to reclaim its title as an industry leader as it was when John D. Rockefeller ran shop in Oil City, Pennsylvania.  These production numbers are exciting for residents of the Commonwealth and provide creedence to a recent Penn State study that declared the State could produce a quarter of the nation’s supply of natural gas by 2020, we covered highlights of that report here (more after the jump).

How much natural gas is the Marcellus shale producing? The chart below is a breakdown of national production of natural gas.  From the chart you can clearly see how Northeast Pennsylvania is quickly taking over leadership! Since January 2010 production occurring in NEPA has more than doubled from 2.0 bcf/d to its current level of 4.5 bcf/d.  Taking a longer view and comparing production to previous years (04 – 08) it is noticeable that current production is almost 5 times greater than during this time period.  An exciting development indeed which is due in part to the overperformance of wells in the region like these Cabot wells that were covered this June 

How Does Increased NEPA production affect the amount natural gas does the U.S. import annually? With the mighty Marcellus producing at such astounding rates the amount of liquified natural gas (LNG) the United States must import is shrinking.  Data from EIA shows net imports of LNG from other countries have dropped over the last three years while U.S. consumption only continues to rise.  This implies growing domestic production is weening the Nation off foreign sources of natural gas which is moving the country one-step closer to a greater independence- at least when it comes to natural gas. (for a more detailed chart on imports and prices click here).  

So Where Does the Gas Come From? The diagram below shows the geologic nature of most major sources of natural gas in the United States. The first bullet, gas-rich shale, is the source of Northeast Pennsylvania’s production resurgence our shale being the Marcellus.  In fact, shale gas has transformed the nation’s natural gas outlook with our Country producing more domestic natural gas than it has in the previous 37 years.  

  • Gas-rich shale is the source rock for many natural gas resources, but, until now, has not been a focus for production. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made shale gas an economically viable alternative to conventional gas resources.  It this resource that is allowing Pennsylvania to reclaim its title as industry leader once again.
  • Conventional gas accumulations occur when gas migrates from gas-rich shale into an overlying sandstone formation, and then becomes trapped by an overlying impermeable formation, called the seal. Associated gas accumulates in conjunction with oil, while non-associated gas does not accumulate with oil.
  • Tight sand gas accumulations occur in a variety of geologic settings where gas migrates from a source rock into a sandstone formation, but is limited in its ability to migrate upward due to reduced permeability in the sandstone.
  • Coalbed methane does not migrate from shale, but is generated during the transformation of organic material to coal.

Have a question about the natural gas industry please check out the EIA’s frequently asked questions or glossary of terms.  We’re watching closely and are anxiously awaiting the day when Pennsylvania is the national leader in the production of oil and natural gas once again!


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