Whether or not you realize the importance of natural gas, it is ubiquitous. Natural gas and products made from it are below you and all around you, a form of it is most likely on you and maybe even inside of you. It is fundamental to everyday life and becoming increasingly vital to the world’s energy portfolio. Natural gas is a fossil fuel used for heating, cooking, electricity, fuel for vehicles, a chemical feedstock in making plastics, and other commercially imported organic chemicals. This naturally occurring hydrocarbon gas mixture is found deep underground, and in the U.S. has primarily been extracted from shale rock over the past decade.
Across the Appalachian region there are two shale formations that together are producing a lot of the U.S. natural gas. The Marcellus shale extends from New York to Kentucky, covering about 95,000 square miles. The Utica shale sits beneath the Marcellus and is below us in Ohio, spanning 60,000 total square miles between New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Innovations in drilling and hydraulic fracturing has advanced to the point where oil and gas production can be economic in these tight shale formations, allowing the region to become very prolific over the past years. According to new information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) the Appalachian region is driving growth in our country’s natural gas production. Since 2012, the average monthly natural gas production per rig for new wells in the region has increased by 10.8 million cubic feet per day. A decade ago this level of production would have been unthinkable for our area. Fast-forward to today and if Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania were hypothetically to combine as a country, it would be the third highest natural gas producing country in the world.
According to Energy In Depth, the Appalachian region produces enough natural gas in a single day to:
· Run 82,800 televisions non-stop for a century.
· Provide electricity for 559,245 houses for a year.
· Take a cross-country road trip 255,000 times.
· Travel to the moon and back 12,857 times.
EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report finds that natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica has increased by more than 14 billion cubic feet per day since 2012. To put that into perspective over the last five years, that’s an increase in production of natural gas from 7.8 Bcf/d in 2012, to producing 22.1 Bcf/d in 2016, and the third quarter of 2017 shows production at 23.8 Bcf/d in 2017. As of November 2017 more than 1,800 wells have been drilled in the Utica-Point Pleasant, and more than 11,300 wells have been drilled in the Marcellus.
There’s still more to come as the Appalachian region continues to show what its capable of bringing to the U.S. energy portfolio. It is projected that the northeast states will account for 35% of U.S. natural gas production by 2020. It will be exciting to see our industry continue to advance techniques that will improve production and bring even more economic development across our region.