Production soars in NEPA gas fields in 2013

WGSI_gaschart001 By Brendan Gibbons
Times Shamrock Writer



Natural gas from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania topped 3 trillion cubic feet in 2013, more than double the previous year.

Marcellus Shale wells now account for 18 percent of total U.S. gas production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the state Department of Environmental Protection released production and WGSI_gaschart002waste data for the second half of 2013.

The data are only as good as the operators’ word. Operators self-report their production to DEP, which does not vet the numbers before posting them online on its Oil and Gas Reporting website.

In some cases, the DEP retracts data with known errors and republishes corrected versions. For example, the department retracted Chesapeake Appalachia LLC’s 2012 data when the company failed to report its drill cutting waste from that year, deputy press secretary Morgan Wagner said.

Despite the department’s caveats, these production numbers are the most complete way of knowing how much gas came out of Pennsylvania’s fields in 2013 compared to 2012.

Production shot up in the three Northeast Pennsylvania counties with significant gas development. Aggregate well output in Bradford increased 213 percent, Susquehanna increased 125 percent and Wyoming increased 41 WGSI_gaschart003percent.

Chesapeake Appalachia LLC was the top producer in 2013 with more than 680 billion cubic feet, enough gas to heat and fuel almost 7 million homes for a year, according to America’s Natural Gas Alliance consumption estimates.

Production increased for almost all major exploration and production companies in 2013. On the high end, Southwestern Energy Production Co. increased by 183 percent, and Chief Oil & Gas increased its output by 155 percent.

Out of the top producers, only Talisman Energy USA’s production declined. The company produced 11 percent less gas in 2013 than in 2012.

Production from new wells has grown even as the number of drilling rigs operating in the Marcellus has held steady. The EIA’s Feb. 10 drilling productivity report counts a little more than 100 rigs operating in the Marcellus, down from a peak of almost 160 in 2012.

Dry methane gas wasn’t the only fossil fuel harvested this year. Statewide, unconventional wells produced almost 3 million barrels of gas condensate and more than 200,000 barrels of oil.

Drilling and hydraulically fracturing these wells produced a staggering amount of waste.

Solid wastes include drill cuttings and fracturing sand. The industry also generates liquid wastes of fracturing fluid, a mixture of water, sand and chemical biocides, solids that prop fractures open and friction reducers. Another liquid waste, produced fluid, is ancient water of varying composition that flows back out of a producing well, along with gas or oil.

In 2013, the DEP logged more than 581,000 tons of drill cuttings, 848,000 barrels of waste drilling fluid, 4.6 million barrels of fracturing fluid and 40 million barrels of produced fluid. One barrel equals 42 U.S. gallons.

In Northeast Pennsylvania, the DEP listed five facilities that process wastes from drilling and fracking. Two are landfills that accept solid wastes such as drill cuttings, which can contain low levels of naturally-occurring radioactive material. The other three accept liquid wastes.

Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Dunmore accepted more than 87,000 tons of drill cuttings in 2013. Alliance Landfill in Taylor took almost 60,000 tons.

Somerset Regional Water Resources’s treatment facility in Springville Twp. accepted more than 5.4 million gallons of liquid wastes, including produced water, drilling mud and fracturing fluid.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. operates Hibbard Tank Pad in Springville Twp., which accepted more than more than 48 million gallons of liquid wastes in 2013.

Shaskas South Pad near Montrose, operated by Carrizo Marcellus LLC, stored more than 111,000 gallons of spent fracturing fluid last year.