Drilling Down

Production Rises in Western Pennsylvania’s Utica

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Production of natural gas from horizontal wells drilled in Lawrence and Mercer counties in western Pennsylvania took a leap during the fourth quarter of 2015 versus the previous quarter, and output remained steady through the first two months of this year, data show.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the two counties combined produced 11 billion cubic feet of gas during the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2015 compared to 9.8 billion cubic feet during the third quarter, a 12% increase.

The bulk of this increase came from 34 wells in Mercer County, which in October produced just 646.7 million cubic feet of gas. In December, that number had more than doubled to 1.351 billion cubic feet of gas for the month. Wells in Mercer County combined to yield 2.9 billion cubic feet of gas during the period.

Natural gas is the dominant commodity from this part of the Utica shale. Little or no oil was produced from wells in both of the counties, records show.

Lawrence County produced the most natural gas during the fourth quarter and is home to the most wells in the region, records show.

The county’s 48 wells yielded 8.1 billion cubic feet of gas during the fourth quarter. In November, production in the county hit its all-time high for a single month with 2.9 billion cubic feet produced.

Houston-based Hilcorp Energy Co. is the most prolific driller in this section of Pennsylvania and in the northern tier of the Utica shale.

Of the 34 wells in production in Mercer County, for example, Hilcorp operates 33 and Chevron just a single unit in Lackawanna Township.

And, in Lawrence County, Hilcorp operates all but seven of the producing wells there. Rex Energy, based in State College, Pa., operates the other wells, including the most productive in this section of Pennsylvania’s Utica.

That well, Rex Energy’s Patterson 2H well in Little Beaver Township, yielded 416.9 million cubic feet of gas over the fourth quarter of 2015, data show.

Oil and gas exploration in the region hit a snag two weeks ago when a series of small tremors were recorded near a Hilcorp drilling site in North Beaver Township in Lawrence County. The company voluntarily halted a hydraulic fracturing operation at the location once the small quakes were detected.

In 2014, Hilcorp suspended drilling in Mahoning County, Ohio, when it was determined that a hydraulic fracturing operation at the Carbon Limestone Landfill in Poland Township likely triggered a cluster of small earthquakes there.

Natural gas production in Lawrence and Mercer remains steady into the first two months of 2016, according to DEP data.

Through February, Lawrence County’s wells have produced more than 5 billion cubic feet of gas in the face of one of the worst oil and gas markets in years. In January, the county’s wells yielded 2.577 billion cubic feet of gas and in February recorded volumes of 2.513 billion cubic feet.

Mercer County’s production also remains steady, according to the DEP. Through the first two months of 2016, Mercer County’s wells collectively produced 2.456 billion cubic feet of gas, 1.283 billion in January and 1.173 billion cubic feet in February.

Still, there have been no new horizontal well permits issued this year in Lawrence County, and just a single permit was awarded to SWEPI LP, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, for a well in Mercer County in January, according to the DEP.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.