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Gas production from Marcellus shale sets record despite fewer new wells going online

| Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 10:33 p.m.

Pennsylvania drillers are pulling record amounts of natural gas from the Marcellus shale even as they bring fewer new wells online, according to state data released on Monday.

About 5,400 shale wells produced nearly 2 trillion cubic feet of gas during the first six months of the year, a 14 percent increase in production over the past six months of 2013, the data from the state Department of Environmental Protection show.

Energy companies accomplished the record despite connecting fewer than 500 new wells during the period. Previous semiannual reports showed an average of 675 new wells every six months.

“We're seeing the results of technical developments that allow much greater efficiency,” said Kent Moors, executive chair of the global energy symposium at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

Increased production combined with lower demand from a cool summer has depressed prices, prompting companies to squeeze more gas from wells with new techniques. Ten years of drilling in the shale formation about 6,000 feet below Pennsylvania has helped companies fine-tune their approach, Moors said.

Companies have bragged to investors about longer horizontal sections that reach more gas and take less time to connect to pipelines.

“Our efficiencies are wonderful. The laterals are longer. We're drilling wells in shorter timeframes,” said David J. Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a North Fayette-based lobbyist.

He predicted the year-end gas total would eclipse 4 trillion cubic feet, which would account for 20 percent of the gas produced in the United States.

Moors and Spigelmyer said production remains strongest in the southwest and northeast corners of the state, though exploration of the deeper Utica shale might help spread some wells north during the next few years.

The DEP data showed Susquehanna and Bradford counties accounted for the highest amount of production, with wells pumping out more than 400 million cubic feet in each county. In Western Pennsylvania, 758 Washington County wells produced nearly 200 million cubic feet of gas, and 528 wells in Greene County produced 172 million cubic feet.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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