Some toast to new beginnings, others toast to new resolutions, but the Marcellus and Utica shales will be toasting the past four years as the clock ticks into 2016 on Friday. Together, the two oil plays account for 85 percent of U.S. natural gas production growth since 2012 according to the Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released Tuesday.
The Marcellus shale, engulfing most of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, soared from producing 6.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in January 2012 to producing 16.5 bcf/d in July 2015. Oil companies like Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy and Cabot Oil and Gas operating in Pennsylvania counties led production in the U.S. for the first 10 months of 2015.
According to professional energy analyst Platts Bentek, the Marcellus has the potential to ring in the New Year with more production. “By our estimates, there is up to almost 1.5 billion cubic feet of choked production in the Northeast alone.” However, due to the warm winter, the need for natural gas declined and oil companies are waiting to make their move. “A lot of producers are saying, we’re going to wait until the first quarter of 2016 to come back into the game. They are just waiting for better demand, better prices to bump it out again,” Bentek said.
If the demand shoots back up, Marcellus will remain the bright light as more of the unfinished pipelines conclude construction. “Most of the growth is expected to come from the Marcellus Shale, as the backlog of uncompleted wells is reduced and as new pipelines come online to deliver Marcellus natural gas to markets in the Northeast,” the EIA said.
The DPR revealed the Utica, nestled below eastern Ohio, increased production 18-fold from January 2013 (0.15 bcf/d) to July 2015 (2.6 bcf/d). Currently, the EIA hypothesizes the shale to grow from 3.1 bcf/d in December to 3.2 bcf/d in January.
Both shales can attribute their driving force behind the industry to using more advanced drilling techniques than the rest of the nation including: an increased number of stages during hydraulic fracturing, zipper fracturing and the use of specific components during well completion that help in increasing fracture size of the geologic formation being targeted.
Bakken, Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Niobrara and Permian shales were also included in the EIA’s report. Together, the U.S. shale basins account for 56 percent of U.S. natural gas production.