Gas production up, well drilling down in Pa.

HARRISBURG – Natural gas production in Pennsylvania increased, while new well drilling decreased in 2019, according to the 2019 Oil and Gas Annual Report released by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The report also notes improved permit review efficiency. DEP is also exploring new partnerships to address orphan wells, identifying better restoration practices, and developing better ways to manage stormwater on well sites.

Production from natural gas wells continues to increase. More than 6 billion Mcf of natural gas was produced, continuing an upward trend from previous years.

Other details from the annual report:

1,705 drilling permits were issued; 1,475 unconventional and 230 conventional

There were 787 wells drilled; 615 unconventional and 172 conventional

DEP conducted 35,324 inspections and found 5,496 violations

DEP collected $4.1 million in fines and penalties in 2019

“DEP will continue to improve environmental protections for oil and gas development while providing certainty for operators and the people that live, work, and play near Pennsylvania’s oil and gas communities,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We are remaining vigilant in our oversight of the industry and bringing enforcement actions against companies that violate the laws and regulations of Pennsylvania.”

DEP continues to identify and plug orphan and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, many of which predate regulatory oversight – a result of Pennsylvania’s 160-year history of oil and gas development. DEP estimates that there may be as many 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the state, which can leak methane into the air and possibly contaminate groundwater or surface water. DEP and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) have begun a field study in the Cornplanter State Forest to measure methane leakage from identified orphan wells. This research will help DEP better estimate methane emissions from the thousands of orphaned and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania.

“We know there are thousands of old, abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, but we don’t know how to quantify the threat these wells pose to our environment, especially from a climate change angle,” said McDonnell. “This research will help us put that into perspective and help guide how to prioritize well-plugging in the future.”