Gas Production Inches Up in Western Pa.’s Utica

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Oil and gas production in western Pennsylvania’s northern tier of the Utica shale – which generally encompasses Lawrence and Mercer counties – increased slightly during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the previous three-month period, data show.

Together, Lawrence and Mercer counties yielded 11.510 billion cubic feet of gas for the quarter – a slight increase from the 11.402 billion recorded in the previous three-month period, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. DEP records show that no oil was produced from wells in either county.

Energy companies across the country have throttled back production in the face of depressed commodity prices and have all but suspended drilling activity in the Utica shale, especially in the northern region where wells aren’t as productive as they are in southeastern Ohio.

However, the 34 wells reporting production in Mercer County combined for the best quarter since oil and gas companies began drilling in this section of the Utica about five years ago.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Mercer County’s wells yielded a total of 3.642 billion cubic feet of natural gas for the three months ended March 31, a 26% increase compared to the previous quarter. During the fourth quarter 2015, the same number of wells produced 2.890 billion cubic feet of gas.

The most productive well during the first quarter in Mercer County was Hilcorp Energy Co.’s Shenango 7H well in Shenango Township. That well yielded 271.3 million cubic feet of gas during the period. Another well at the same pad produced 257.4 million cubic feet of gas, according to the DEP.

Hilcorp operates 33 of the 34 producing wells in the county. Chevron Appalachia operates single producing well in Lackawanna Township.

While production increased in Mercer County, natural gas output decreased in neighboring Lawrence County, DEP records show.

The 49 wells reporting production in Lawrence County during the first quarter yielded 7.868 billion cubic feet of gas, a drop of 7.5% compared to the 8.512 billion produced during the fourth quarter of 2015.

R.E. Gas Development, a division of Rex Energy, operates the single most productive well in both counties, according to the DEP. The company’s Patterson 2H well in Little Beaver Township produced 401.1 million cubic feet of gas over the first quarter. R.E. Gas operates seven of the 49 producing wells in the county; Hilcorp operates the rest.

Hilcorp suspended drilling and completion on a well in Lawrence County in June, when a series of small earthquakes were recorded near the well pad in North Beaver Township where the company was conducting a hydraulic fracturing operation.

Among the most productive wells in the northern tier of the Utica are in Columbiana County, Ohio. The county’s 59 producing wells yielded 10.4 billion cubic feet of gas during the first quarter, a 10.3% decrease compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, when the county’s output stood at 11.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

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