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Fracking accounts for most new oil and gas production in U.S., agency says

Stephen Huba
| Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, 11:18 a.m.
The Poseidon well pad in Penn Township was the first fracking well to be undertaken by Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration of Monroeville.
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The Poseidon well pad in Penn Township was the first fracking well to be undertaken by Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration of Monroeville.

Hydraulically fractured horizontal wells accounted for 69 percent of all oil and natural gas wells drilled in the United States, and 83 percent of the total linear footage drilled, in 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Tuesday.

The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has increased the rate of recent U.S. crude oil, lease condensate and natural gas production in Pennsylvania and other states, the EIA said.

Hydraulically fractured horizontal wells became the predominant method of new U.S. crude oil and natural gas development in October 2011, when total footage (in linear feet) surpassed all other drilling and completion techniques.

The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has contributed to increases in crude oil and natural gas production in the United States, which are expected to reach record levels in 2018 .

Record production levels are largely attributable to increased production of natural gas and crude oil enabled by the use of fracking techniques in tight rock formations, the EIA said. The agency expects increases in natural gas production to be the leading contributor to overall fossil fuels production growth in 2018.

Although horizontal drilling has been used for nearly a century, its use as a source of U.S. oil and natural gas production began growing in the early 2000s. The process involves drilling a well vertically to a certain depth and then bending the path of the drilling until it extends horizontally.

In 2016, total drilled footage reached nearly 13 million feet, about 10.7 million of which were hydraulically fractured and horizontally drilled, the EIA said.

Fracked horizontal wells have accounted for most of all new wells drilled and completed since late 2014. As of 2016, about 670,000 of the 977,000 producing wells were hydraulically fractured and horizontally drilled.

Hydraulic fracturing involves forcing a liquid under high pressure from a wellbore against a rock formation until it fractures. The injected fluid contains a proppant — small, solid particles, usually sand or a man-made granular solid of similar size — that wedges open the expanding fractures and allows hydrocarbons such as crude oil and natural gas to flow more easily.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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