State gas production spikes

6-month figures show 60% increase for Marcellus Shale wells

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HARRISBURG -- Gas production continues to skyrocket in Pennsylvania, with the latest six-month figures showing a 60 percent increase in output for the commonwealth's Marcellus Shale wells.

The more than 1,600 Marcellus wells currently in production put out a total of 432 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the first six months of the year, according to the figures provided to the state Department of Environmental Protection by drilling companies.

The data is available on the DEP's website.

Those numbers likely will be scrutinized by state lawmakers as they return this fall, with debate over how to assess a tax or fee on gas production at the top for their fall agenda.

Counties in the state's northern tier -- Bradford, Susquehanna and Tioga -- led the pack for most production, followed closely by Greene and Washington.

Those two southwestern counties each produced more than 10 percent of the state total: Greene tallied 51.1 billion cubic feet, and Washington reported 45.9 billion cubic feet.

For Greene and Washington counties, that reflected a boost from the previous six-month period, when both counties had production levels between about 30 billion and 35 billion cubic feet.

It was also a Greene County well that had the highest volume during the reporting period: an EQT Corp. well in Morris produced nearly 3 billion cubic feet of gas.

Combined, the five top counties accounted for more than 80 percent of the gas produced during the first six months of the year.

The total production is up from 271.8 billion cubic feet of gas reported for the state during the final six months of 2010. It's also more than double the amount of gas produced during the 12 months from July 2009 to June 2010.

"I think what we're seeing are the kind of production numbers that the report we put out in July projected," said Kathryn Klaber, Marcellus Shale Coalition president.

"We're seeing the actual production reflect that strong anticipated growth, and it's still in the early stages."

The trade group's report, released last month, boosted its prior projection for how much gas would be flowing from Pennsylvania wells this year.

Ms. Klaber noted that at the end of 2010, wells were already beating production estimates, and fewer sites than thought were needed to hit those figures. Last year's average daily production was double what the group had estimated, with 300 fewer wells.

She said that means "a smaller footprint is needed for producing clean-burning energy."

Penn State geologist Terry Engelder also said the numbers showed promising production levels, particularly in Susquehanna and Bradford counties.

He said those two northern counties are "holding up extraordinarily well" to expectations. According to Mr. Engelder, four wells in Susquehanna County have cumulative produced more than 4 billion cubic feet each.


Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254.


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