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Production and Location Trends in PA: A Moving Target

The FracTracker Alliance tends to look mostly at the impacts of drilling, from violations affecting surface and ground water to forest fragmentation to neighbors breathing diesel exhaust near disposal wells.  We also try to give residents tools to help predict where future activity will occur, but as this article details, such predictive tools can do little more than trail moving targets. To that end, we have taken a look into areas where gas production is high for unconventional wells in the state, which are likely sites of future development.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Production Report is self-reported by the various operators active in the state. Unconventional wells generate a large quantity of natural gas, measured in thousands of cubic feet (Mcf), as well as limited amounts of oil and condensate, both of which are measured in 42 gallon barrels. In this analysis, we are only considering the gas production.


Click here for full screen map. 

In the map above, you can click on any well to learn more about the production values, along with a variety of other information including the well’s formation and age.  The age was calculated by counting days from the spud date to the end of the report cycle, March 31, 2019.

 

Top Average Gas Production by County – April 2018 to March 2019

CountyProducing Wells Avg. Production (Mcf) Production Rank Avg. Age of Producing WellsAge Rank
Wyoming 2511,269,15615 Yr / 10 Mo / 4 Days12
Sullivan1281,087,86825 Yr / 2 Mo/ 24 Days8
Allegheny1171,075,01834 yr/ 2 Mo / 7 Days2
Susquehanna1,4291,066,73445 Yr / 6 Mo / 22 Days10
Greene1,131796,75555 yr / 10 Mo / 28 Days13
Figure 1 – This table shows the top five counties in Pennsylvania for per-well unconventional gas production. The final column shows the county ranking for the average age of wells, from youngest to oldest

We can also see this data summarized by county, where average production and age values are available on a county by county basis (see Figure 1). Hydrocarbon wells are known to decrease production steeply over time, a phenomenon known as the decline curve, so it is not surprising to see a relatively young inventory of wells represented in the list of top five counties with per-well gas production. Age is not the only factor in production values, however, as certain geographies simply contain more accessible gas resources than others.

 

Figure 2 – 12 month gas production and age of well. Production is usually much higher during the earliest phases of the well’s production life.  This does not include wells that have been plugged or taken out of production.  Click on image for full-sized view.

In Figure 2, we look at the production of all unconventional wells in the state, expecting to see the highest production in younger wells. This mostly appears to be the case, but as mentioned above, there are also hot and cold spots with respect to production. A notable variable in this consideration is producing formation.

Since 93% (8,730 out of 9,404) of unconventional wells reporting gas production are in the Marcellus Shale Formation, the traditional hot spots in the northeastern and southwestern portions of the state heavily skew the overall totals in terms of both production and number of wells.  Other formations of note include the Onodaga Limestone (137 wells, 1.5% of total), Burket Member (117 wells, 1.2%), Genesee Formation (104 wells, 1.1%), and the Utica Shale (99 wells, 1.1%) (Figure 3).

Figure 3 – Unconventional gas production over 12 months, showing formation. Click on image for full-sized view.

Drillers have been exploring some of these formations for decades. In fact, the oldest producing well that is currently classified as unconventional was 13,435 days old as of March 31, which works out to 36 years, 9 months, and 12 days.

However, this is fairly rare – only 384 (4%) of the 9,404 producing wells were more than 10 years old. 5,981 wells (64%) are between 5 and 10 years old, with the remaining 3,039 wells (32%) younger than 5 years old.

This does not take into account wells of any age that have been plugged or otherwise taken out of production.

Age of Pennsylvania’s active wells

< 5 years old
5-10 years old
> 10 years old

 

Utica Shale

The Utica Shale is worth a special mention here for a couple of reasons.  First, we must acknowledge its prominence in neighboring Ohio, which has 2,160 permitted Utica wells to go with just 40 permitted Marcellus wells, the prevalence of the two plays seems to invert just as one passes over the state line. And yet, the most productive Utica wells are near the border with New York, not Ohio.

In fact, each of the top 11 producing Utica wells during the 12 month period were located in Tioga County.  It’s worth noting that these are all between one and two years old, which would have given the wells time to be drilled, fracked, and brought into production, while still being in the prime of their production life. Compared to the Marcellus, sample size quickly becomes an issue when analyzing the Utica in Pennsylvania (Figure 4).

Figure 4 – Producing Utica wells in Pennsylvania. Note that the cluster of heavily producing wells in Tioga and Potter Counties near the New York border are mostly young wells where higher production would be expected.  Click on image for full sized view.

Second, portions of the Utica are known for their wet gas content, meaning that the gas has significant quantities of natural gas liquids (NGLs) including ethane, propane, and butane, which are gaseous at ambient temperatures but typically condensed into liquid form by oil and gas companies.  These are used for specialized fuels and petrochemical feedstocks, and are therefore more valuable than the methane in natural gas.

The production report does not capture the amount of NGLs in the gas, but a map from the Energy Information Administration shows the entire play, noting that the composition is dryer on the eastern portions of the play. In fact, a wet gas composition along the Ohio border might help to explain continued interest in what are otherwise well below average gas production results for Pennsylvania.

A Moving Target

It is difficult to predict where the industry will focus its attention in the coming months and years, but taking a look at production and formation data can give us a few clues.  Obviously, operators who found a particularly productive pocket of hydrocarbons are likely to keep drilling more holes in the ground in those areas until production is no longer profitable. Therefore, impacts to water, air, and nearby residents can be expected to continue in heavily drilled areas largely because the production level makes it attractive for drillers.

On the other hand, we should not assume that areas that are currently not productive are off the table for future consideration, either. Different formations are productive in different geographies, so a sweet spot for the Marcellus might be a dud in the Utica, or vice versa.

Finally, when comparing production, we must always take the age of the well into consideration, as all oil and gas wells can be expected to start off with a short period of very high production, followed by years of ever-diminishing returns throughout the expected 10 to 11 year lifecycle of the well. Because of this, what seems like a hotspot now may look below average in a similar analysis in three to four years, particularly in formations with relatively light drilling activity. This means that the top list of production by well could change over time, so be sure to check back in with FracTracker to see how events unfold.

By Matt Kelso, Manager of Data and Technology, FracTracker Alliance

 

Global oil refineries map by FracTracker - Ted Auch

Tracking Global Oil Refineries and their Emissions

Potential Conflict Hotspots and Global Productivity Choke Points

Today, FracTracker is releasing a complete inventory of all 536 global oil refineries, along with estimates of daily capacity, CO2 emissions per year, and various products. These data have also been visualized in the map below.

Total productivity from these refineries amounts to 79,372,612 barrels per day (BPD) of oil worldwide, according to the data we were able to compile. However, based on the International Energy Agency, global production is currently around 96 million BPD, which means that our capacity estimates are more indicative of conditions between 2002 and 2003 according to BP’s World Oil Production estimates. We estimate this disparity is a result of countries’ reluctance to share individual refinery values or rates of change due to national security concerns or related strategic reasons.

These refineries are emitting roughly 260-283 billion metric tons (BMT) of CO2[1], 1.2-1.3 BMT of methane and 46-51 million metric tons of nitrous oxide (N2O) into the atmosphere each year. The latter two compounds have climate change potentials equivalent to 28.2-30.7 BMT and 14.1-15.3 BMT CO2, respectively.

66 million

Assuming the planet’s 7.6 billion people emit 4.9-5.0 metric tons per capita of CO2 per year, emissions from these 536 refineries amounts to the CO2 emissions of 52-57 million people. If you include the facilities’ methane and N2O emissions, this figure rises to 61-66 million people equivalents every year, essentially the populations of the United Kingdom or France.

Map of global oil refineries


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BP’s data indicate that the amount of oil being refined globally is increasing by 923,000 BPD per year (See Figure 1). This increase is primarily due to improved productivity from existing refineries. For example, BP’s own Whiting, IN refinery noted a “$4-billion revamp… to boost its intake of Canadian crude oil from 85,000 bpd to 350,000 bpd.”

Figure 1. Global Oil Production 1965 to 2016 (barrels per day)

Figure 1. Global Oil Production, 1965 to 2016 (barrels per day) – Data courtesy of British Petroleum (BP) World Oil Production estimates.

 

Potential Hotspots and Chokepoints

Across the globe, countries and companies are beginning to make bold predictions about their ability to refine oil.

Nigeria, for example, recently claimed they would be increasing oil refining capacity by 13% from 2.4 to 2.7 million BPD. Currently, however, our data indicate Nigeria is only producing a fraction of this headline number (i.e., 445,000 BPD). The country’s estimates seem to be more indicative of conditions in Nigeria in the late 1960s when oil was first discovered in the Niger Delta. Learn more.

Is investing in – and doubling down on – oil refining capacity a smart idea for Nigeria’s people and economy, however? At this point, the country’s population is 3.5 times greater than it was in the 60’s and is growing at a remarkable rate of 2.7% per year. Yet, Nigeria’s status as one of the preeminent “Petro States” has done very little for the majority of its population – The oil industry and the Niger Delta have become synonymous with increased infant mortality and rampant oil spills.

Sadly, the probability that the situation will improve in a warming – and more politically volatile – world is not very likely. 

Such a dependency on oil price has been coupled to political instability in Nigeria, prompting some to question whether the discovery of oil was a cure or a curse given that the country depends on oil prices – and associated volatility – to balance its budget: Of all the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) countries, Nigeria is near the top of the list when it comes to the price of oil the country needs to balance its budget – Deutsche Bank and IMF estimate $123 per barrel as their breaking point. This is a valuation that oil has only exceeded or approached 4.4% of the time since 1987 (See Figure 2).

Former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Charles Soludo, once put this reliance in context:

… For too long, we have lived with borrowed robes, and I think for the next generation, for the 400 million Nigerians expected in this country by the year 2050, oil cannot be the way forward for the future.

Other regions are also at risk from the oil market’s power and volatility. In Libya, for example, the Ras Lanuf oil refinery (with a capacity of 220,000 BPD) and the country’s primary oil export terminal in Brega were the focal point of the Libyan civil war in 2011. Not coincidentally, Libya also happens to be the Petro State that needs the highest per-barrel price for oil to balance its budget (See Figure 2). Muammar Gaddafi and the opposition, National Transitional Council, jostled for control of this pivotal choke point in the Africa-to-Europe hydrocarbon supply chain.

The fact that refineries like these – and others in similarly volatile regions of the Middle East – produce an impressive 10% (7,166,900 BPD) of global demand speaks to the fragility of these Hydrocarbon Industrial Complex focal points, as well as the planet’s fragile dependence on fossil fuels going forward.

Weekly Spot Price of Brent Sweet Crude ($ Per Barrel) and estimates of the prices OPEC/Petro States need to balance their budgets.

Figure 2. Weekly Spot Price of Brent Sweet Crude ($ Per Barrel) and estimates of the prices OPEC/Petro States need to balance their budgets.

 

Dividing Neighbors

These components of the fossil fuel industry, and their associated feedstocks and pipelines, will continue to divide neighbors and countries as political disenfranchisement and inequality grow, the climate continues to change, and resource limitations put increasing stress on food security and watershed resiliency worldwide.

Not surprisingly, every one of these factors places more strain on countries and weakens their ability to govern responsibly.

Thus, many observers speculate that these factors are converging to create a kind of perfect storm that forces OPEC governments and their corporate partners to lean even more heavily on their respective militaries and for-profit private military contractors (PMCs) to prevent social unrest while insuring supply chain stability and shareholder return.[2,3] The increased reliance on PMCs to provide domestic security for energy infrastructure is growing and evolving to the point where in some countries it may be hard to determine where a state’s sovereignty ends and a PMC’s dominance begins – Erik Prince’s activities in the Middle East and Africa on China’s behalf and his recent aspirations for Afghanistan are a case in point.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, whiskey is for drinking and hydrocarbons are for fighting over. 

The international and regional unaccountability of PMCs has added a layer of complexity to this conversation about energy security and independence. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela provide examples of how fragile political stability is, and more importantly how dependent this stability is on oil refinery production and what OPEC is calling ‘New Optimism.’ To be sure, PMCs are playing an increasing role in political (in)stability and energy production and transport. Since knowledge and transparency are essential for peaceful resolutions, we will continue to map and chronicle the intersections of geopolitics, energy production and transport, social justice, and climate change.


By Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance; and Bryan Stinchfield, Associate Professor of Organization Studies, Department Chair of Business, Organizations & Society, Franklin & Marshall College


Relevant Data

Footnotes and References

  1. Assuming a tons of CO2 to barrels of oil per day ratio of 8.99 to 9.78 tons of CO2 per barrel of oil based on an analysis we’ve conducted of 146 refineries in the United States.
  2. B. Stinchfield.  2017.  “The Creeping Privatization of America’s Armed Forces”.  Newsweek, May 28th, 2017, New York, NY.
  3. R. Gray.  “Erik Prince’s Plan to Privatize the War in Afghanistan”.  The Atlantic, August 18th, 2017, New York, NY.
Life expectancy of the Marcellus Shale - Map of PA basins and plays

What is the Life Expectancy of the Marcellus Shale?

How long will unconventional oil and gas production from PA’s Marcellus Shale continue? The number of active wells may give us a clue.

 

We have recently updated the PA Shale Viewer, our map of unconventional wells in Pennsylvania. As I updated the statistics to reflect the updated data, I noticed that the number of wells with an active status ticked downward, just as it had for the previous update.

Pennsylvania Shale Viewer


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Wells on this map are shown in purple when zoomed out, but are organized by status as you continue to zoom in. The various statuses are shown below, as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

  • Active – permit has been issued and well may or may not have been drilled or producing, but has not been plugged.
  • Proposed but Never Materialized – permit was issued, but expired prior to the commencement of drilling.
  • Plugged OG Well – permit issued and well has been plugged by well operator.
  • Operator Reported Not Drilled – permit issued, but operator reported to DEP that they never drilled the well.
  • DEP Abandoned List – an abandoned well that has been inspected by DEP.
  • DEP Orphan List – A well abandoned prior to April 18, 1985, that has not been affected or operated by the present owner or operator and from which the present owner, operator or lessee has received no economic benefit other than as a land.
  • DEP Plugged – a DEP Abandoned or DEP Orphan well that has been plugged by DEP,
  • Regulatory Inactive Status – a well status that is requested by well operator and has been granted by DEP. Well is capable of producing, but is temporarily shut in. Granted for initial 5 years and must be renewed yearly after first 5 years.
  • Abandoned – a well that has not been used to produce, extract or inject any gas, petroleum or other liquid within the preceding 12 months; for which equipment necessary for production, extraction or injection has been removed; or considered dry and not equipped for production.

Life Expectancy Stats

Summary of PA unconventional wells by status.

Table 1: Unconventional well locations in Pennsylvania by status. The determination of drilled locations was made by the presence of a spud date in the DEP dataset.

Currently, there are 10,586 well locations with an active status, 9,218 of which have been drilled. There 19,617 unconventional well locations in Pennsylvania when considering all status types, 10,652 of which have been drilled. The drill status was determined by whether or not there was an associated spud date in the dataset. The 13 plugged wells that lack spud dates likely represent some minor data entry errors of one sort or another, as a well would logically need to be drilled prior to being plugged.

Using the available data, we can see that 6.5% of drilled unconventional wells have been plugged, and an additional 6.9% have a regulatory inactive status, more commonly known as “shut-in” wells, leaving 86.5% of the drilled wells with an active status. Three wells are classified as abandoned, including two in Washington County attributed to Atlas Resources, LLC, and one operated by EQT Production Co. in Jefferson County. EQT submitted a request to convert the status of this latter well to inactive status in February 2016, but DEP has not made a decision on the application as of yet.

This chart shows the current status of unconventional wells in Pennsylvania, arranged by the year the well was drilled. Note that there are two abandoned wells in 2009 and one more in 2014, although those totals are not visible at this scale.

Chart 1: This chart shows the current status of unconventional wells in Pennsylvania, arranged by the year the well was drilled. Note that there are two abandoned wells in 2009 and one more in 2014, although those totals are not visible at this scale.

The top, solid blue line in Chart 1 shows the total number of unconventional wells drilled in Pennsylvania, which is based on the available spud date in the dataset. Focusing on this line for a moment, we can see a huge spike in the number of wells drilled in the early part of this decade. In fact, over 46% of the unconventional wells in the state were drilled between 2010 and 2012, and over 70% were drilled between 2010 and 2014. The 504 unconventional wells drilled in 2016 represents just over one quarter the total from 2011, when 1,959 wells were drilled. The 2017 totals are already slightly higher than 2016, with two months left to go in the year, but will not approach the totals from 2010 to 2014.

This drop-off in drilling since the 2011 peak is usually attributed to the glut of natural gas that these wells produced, and the Marcellus remains a highly productive formation, despite the considerable decline in new wells. Eventually, however, the entire formation will go into decline, which is already happening to the Barnett Shale in Texas and Haynesville Shale, among others, where peak production was several years ago in each case.

While all of three of these formations still produce significant quantities of gas, it is worth remembering that production is only half of the equation. In the Marcellus region, average costs were $6.6 million in 2014, which was projected to decrease to $6.1 million per well in 2015 according to a 2016 EIA document.

With the supply in the northeast outpacing demand, the gas prices stay low, and therefore production per well needs to be considerable to make a given well worthwhile.

Plugging Trends

Chart 2: Average days between spud date and plug date for unconventional wells in PA. Regulatory Inactive wells also include a plug date, and are included here.

Chart 2: Average days between spud date and plug date for unconventional wells in PA. Regulatory Inactive wells also include a plug date, and are included here.

Chart 2 shows the average number of days between the spud date and the plug date for wells that currently have either a plugged (n=694) or regulatory inactive (n=737) status. The regulatory inactive wells are relatively consistent in the days between when the well is drilled and temporarily plugged, which makes sense, as the operators of these wells typically intend for these wells to be shut-in upon completion.

However, it is interesting to note that wells are being plugged much more rapidly than they had been in the early part of the Marcellus boom.

Plugged unconventional wells that were drilled in 2005 (n=6) had an average of 3,081 days between these dates, while those drilled in 2016 (n=2) had and average span of 213 days.

The left (orange) axis represents the percentage of wells drilled in each year that are currently drilled. The right (blue) axis marks the total number of wells drilled in each year that are currently drilled.

The left (orange) axis represents the percentage of wells drilled in each year that are currently drilled. The right (blue) axis marks the total number of wells drilled in each year that are currently drilled.

Obviously there would be no way for a well drilled in 2016 to have been online for 3,081 days before being plugged. However, each of the six plugged wells drilled in 2005 were active for at least 1,899 days before being sealed, which is over five years of activity. In contrast, 99 of the 4,966 unconventional wells drilled in the previous 1,899 days have already been plugged, representing 5.2% of the total wells drilled during that time. This means that we are seeing more “misses” at this point in the formation’s history, where the amount of gas being produced doesn’t justify keeping the well open and offsetting the $6 million or more that it cost to drill the well.

We can also see that the rate of plugged wells increases dramatically after about ten years in operation. Forty-four out of 114 (39%) of unconventional wells that were drilled in 2007 are now plugged. That ratio grows two thirds of the nine wells drilled in 2005. In the industry’s boom period of 2010 to 2010, the raw number of plugged wells are elevated, peaking at 206 in 2011, but the percentage of plugged wells during those years remains proportional to the rest of the trend. The overall trend shows that an unconventional well in Pennsylvania that lasts 11 or more years is unusual.

The data show that older Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania are certainly in a state of decline, and are rapidly being plugged. While the overall production of the field remains high, it remains to be seen what will happen as the boom cycle wells drilled from 2010 to 2012 start to go offline in considerable numbers. Given that more and more wells are being drilled with very short production lives, will it continue to make sense for the industry to drill expensive wells in a formation where a return on investment is increasingly questionable? This course is difficult to predict, but economic models that take plentiful natural gas supplies for granted should consider taking a second look.


PA Shale Viewer Data Sources

Unconventional Violations
Source: PADEP
Date Range: 1-1-2000 through 10-2-2017
Notes: For the original data, follow link above to “Oil and Gas Compliance Report”. Latitude and longitude data obtained by matching with permits data (see below). There are 7,655 rows of violations data, including 6,576 distinct Violation IDs issued to 2,253 distinct unconventional wells. Due to the large number of records, this layer isn’t visible until users zoom in to 1:500,000, or about the size of a small county.

Unconventional Wells and Permits
Source: PADEP Open Data Portal
Date Range: 1-1-2000 through 10-2-2017
Notes: This data layer contains unconventional well data in Pennsylvania. However, not all of these wells have been drilled yet. This layer is categorized by well status, which includes Abandoned, Active, Operator Reported Not Drilled, Plugged OG Well, Proposed but Never Materialized, and Regulatory Inactive Status. To determine whether the well has been permitted, drilled, or plugged, look for the presence of an entry in the Permit Date, Spud Date, and Plug Date field, respectively. Altogether, there are 19,617 wells in this inventory, of which 10,586 currently have an active status. Due to the large number of records, this layer isn’t visible until users zoom in to 1:500,000, or about the size of a small county.

SkyTruth Pits (2013)
Source: SkyTruth
Date Range: 2013
Notes: Prior to December 2014, this map contained a layer of pits that were contained in Oil and Gas Locations file available on PASDA. However, that layer was far from complete – for example, it included only one pit in Washington County at a time which news reports mentioned that seven pits in the county were scheduled to be closed. Therefore, we have opted to include this crowdsourced layer developed by SkyTruth, where volunteers analyzed state aerial imagery data from 2013. SkyTruth’s methodology for developing the dataset is detailed in the link above. 529 pits have been identified through this effort.

Compressors and Processors (2016)
Source: EDF, CATF, Earthworks, FracTracker Alliance, EPA, PADEP, EIA
Date: 2016
Notes: This layer is based off of publicly available data, but is not published by any agency as a dataset. It is the result of a collaborative effort, and the data first appeared in map format on the Oil and Gas Threat Map (oilandgasthreatmap.com). Original sources include PADEP, US EPA, and US EIA. Compiling, processing, and geocoding by Environmental Defense Fund, Clean Air Task Force, Earthworks, and FracTracker Alliance. Contact Matt Kelso for more information: kelso [at] fractracker.org.

Environmental Justice Areas
Source: PADEP, via PASDA
Date: 2015
Notes: Environmental Justice (EJ) areas are Census Tracts where over 20 percent of the population is in poverty, or over 30 percent of the population is non-white. The program is designed to monitor whether there is a fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. In Pennsylvania, EJ areas tend to be clustered in urbanized areas, particularly near Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Counties
Source: US Census Bureau, FracTracker Alliance
Date Range: 2011
Notes: This file was created by dissolving the Municipalities layer (below) to the county level. This method allows for greater detail than selecting the Pennsylvania counties from a national file.

Municipalities
Source: US Census Bureau
Date Published: 2011
Notes: Viewer must be zoomed into scales of 1:1,500,000 (several counties) or larger to access.

Watersheds – Large
Source: USDA/USGS
Date Published: 2008
Notes: Clipped to outline of Pennsylvania.

Watersheds – Small
Source: USDA/USGS
Date Published: 2008
Notes: Clipped to outline of Pennsylvania. Viewer must be zoomed into scales of 1:1,500,000 (several counties) or larger to access.


By Matt Kelso, Manager of Data and Technology, FracTracker Alliance

South Belridge field by Sarah Leen, National Geographic

Trends in California’s Oil and Gas Development

By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator

Over 38,000 oil and gas wells have likely been hydraulically fractured in California. The last permitted hydraulic fracturing operation in CA was approved in June 2015. Additionally, new aquifer exemption proposals will make it easier for operators to obtain hydraulic fracturing permits. One of the most interesting and troubling issues we found when analyzing the data on violations is that operators with the highest number of new well permits are also responsible for the majority of violations. In this article, we provide a look at these and other the trends of unconventional drilling in CA.

Updated CA Shale Viewer

First of all, the CA Shale Viewer has been updated! New data has been uploaded into the map about unconventional drilling in California, and new data resources have been used to identify shale gas activity (Fig. 1). Recent reports in CA have exposed what many researchers expected – hydraulic fracturing has been occurring in the state without any oversight or documentation for a long time.

In this presentation of the Updated CA Shale Viewer we showcase an analysis of these new data sources that better describe unconventional drilling in CA. We then look to new well permitting data to see what current spatial trends may mean for future oil and gas development. We also look at a sample of operator violations issued by the state regulatory agency to tell us a bit about who the bad actors may be.

Figure 1. CA Shale Viewer – Location of well stimulation & other unconventional oil & gas activity


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Current Fracking Activity

Fracking in California has been put on hold at the moment as a result of low oil prices combined with the new permitting requirements for groundwater monitoring. In 2015, the CA Council on Science and Technology (CCST) released a report on hydraulic fracturing, as required by State Bill 4, proposed by Senator Pavley. The legislation required the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources to create regulations for hydraulic fracturing and other stimulation activities such as acidizing. The report highlighted the necessity of protecting California’s groundwater resources. As another requirement of SB4, the state water resources control board adopted Model Criteria for Groundwater Monitoring in areas of Oil and Gas Well Stimulation, which includes three main components:

  1. Area-specific required groundwater monitoring near stimulation wells by operators
  2. Requirements for designated contractor sampling and testing
  3. Regional scale groundwater monitoring to be implemented by the State Water Board

With these requirements in place to protect groundwater, using hydraulic fracturing and other “extreme” high energy input techniques to extract oil is not currently economical in California. Operators have not submitted a permit application for hydraulic fracturing in CA since June 2015.

This status may change in the near future, though, as DOGGR has proposed groundwater monitoring exemptions for 3 large aquifer systems in Kern and Arroyo Grande counties. Such a proposal would mean that operators would not have to monitor for groundwater contamination in these areas when using hydraulic fracturing or other stimulation technologies like acidizing.

Previous Fracking Activity

One outcome of the aforementioned CCST report on hydraulic fracturing was a review of stimulation activity that has occurred in CA but went undocumented. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) screened thousands of oil and gas well logs and records to calculate the extent to which hydraulic fracturing was actually being used in California’s oil fields. LBNL derived “Well Stimulation Treatment” probabilities based on the number of well records that reported utilizing hydraulic fracturing.

Probabilities were then derived for each pool, which is a geographically isolated formation within an oil field. Using these probabilities, FracTracker calculated a conservative estimate for the number of stimulated wells in the state at over 38,000. There are 228,010 unique Well ID’s listed in the DOGGR database. This puts the proportion of hydraulically fractured wells in California at 16.7% of the total 228,090 wells known.

New Wells

Whereas many other states break down their oil and gas data to show in what phase of development a well may be, CA identifies all wells between the permitted and producing/injecting phase as “new.” In Figure 2 below you can see the wells identified in 2016 as “new.” The DOGGR dataset shows there are currently 6,561 new wells in California as of July 2016. Counts of new well permits were calculated for individual operators and are listed below in Table 1.

Table 1. Top 10 operators according to new well permit counts in California, along with the number of new well permits currently active, the percent those permits represent of total new well permits in the state, and the percentage of violations the operator is responsible in the DOGGR dataset provided to FracTracker Alliance.

Order Operator Permit Count Permit % Violations %
1 Aera Energy LLC 2012 30.67% 22.34%
2 Chevron U.S.A. Inc. 968 14.75% 20.35%
3 California Resources Production Corporation 768 11.70% 5.89%
4 Linn Operating, Inc. 574 8.75% 12.04%
5 E & B Natural Resources Management Corporation 572 8.71% 1%
6 California Resources Elk Hills, LLC 374 5.70% 5.52%
7 Seneca Resources Corporation 185 2.82% 2.83%
8 Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC 164 2.50% 15.22%
9 Vaquero Energy, Inc. 154 2.35% 0.22%
10 Macpherson Oil Company 116 1.77% 2.09%

There are 68 fields in CA that have added new wells in the new DOGGR dataset published in July 2016. The top 10 fields are listed in Table 2 below.

Table 2. Top 10 Oil Fields by Permit (New Well) Count

Order Oil Field Well Count
1 Belridge, South 1518
2 Midway-Sunset 903
3 Poso Creek 553
4 Lost Hills 488
5 Cymric 336
6 Kern River 294
7 Elk Hills 276
8 Kern Front 233
9 McKittrick 186
10 Belridge, North 174

In Figure 2 below, the counts of new wells in fields are shown in shades of yellow/red. The fields with the highest number of new wells are located in the Central Valley. The top 10 operators’ wells are also identified. The majority of new well permits are located in the South Belridge oil field, and the majority of those wells are operated by Aera Energy. As can be seen in the map, most new wells are located in fields in Kern county, but Santa Barbara and Fresno, and even Salinas counties have fields with 40 or more new well permits.

Figure 2. New Well Permitting Map of Unconventional Drilling in California


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Violations

Who collects violations data?

In most states with heavy oil and gas drilling, data on violations is collected by the state regulatory agency, aggregated in datasets and spreadsheets, and made available to the public. FracTracker has done analyses with such data in the past.

In Pennsylvania for instance, a 2011 look at the data showed us that as the number of inspectors on the ground in the Marcellus Shale fields increases, the number of violations/well actually decrease. This was important information that challenged the cynical hypothesis: that more inspectors mean additional eyes on the ground to identify more violations during inspections. In reality, more inspectors actually mean that operators are held to higher standards, and further best management practices (BMPs) are employed. This trend at least seemed to be the case in Pennsylvania. As a regulatory agency, such knowledge is incredibly important, and even validates increased spending and budgets for more personnel.

In California, the issue of publishing violations data is again met with a similar response from the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), specifically the “Oh, is that my job?” question.

How is it shared?

At FracTracker, we spent time working with regulatory officials at DOGGR to get some data on violations. We were informed that at some point in the future, the data may be aggregated and available digitally. Until then, however, a request for the data would have to be made to each of the six district offices individually and would take approximately a year to pull together scanned copies of violations notices in PDF format. Unfortunately, we at FracTracker do not have the capacity to process such files. Instead we asked for anything DOGGR had digitally available, and we were provided with a sample subset of 2,825 violations dating mostly from 2013 and 2014 and only in District 2, the Los Angeles Basin.

What does CA violations data look like?

Looking at the sample of data in Table 2, we see that the majority of violations are caused by the operators that also have the most new well permits. Aera Energy, in particular, is responsible for over 1/5 of all violations in our sample set. Limiting factors and sampling bias of the sample set of violations may impact this analysis, though, as all violations are limited to Los Angeles County.  Operators that mostly operate in the Central Valley will be under represented in the violations count. When more violations data becomes available we will be sure to expand this analysis.

Bans and Regulations on Unconventional Drilling in California

Although every state regulatory agency lambasts that they have the most comprehensive and conservative set of oil and gas extraction regulations, California regulators may actually be right. That is, save for New York which has banned hydraulic fracturing outright.

Regardless of the policy decisions made at the state-level, multiple local municipalities in CA have attempted to or succeeded in passing local bans. Six counties have passed outright bans on unconventional drilling in California, as can be seen in the FracTracker Local Actions map below (Fig. 3). Most recently the county of Alameda, home to the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, has passed a ban. The county of Monterey is also considering a ban on all oil and gas extraction, which has been approved as a local ballot initiative for November 2016.

Figure 3. Local Actions, Bans and Regulations Map


View map fullscreen | How FracTracker maps work

As the price of oil rebounds closer to $100/barrel, there will be more interest by operators to increase unconventional drilling in California. The addition of new aquifer exemptions will make it all the more appealing. These local movements are therefore incredibly important to ensure that “extreme” extraction methods like fracking don’t expand in the future.

Feature Photo: South Belridge field by Sarah Leen, National Geographic

The Curious Case of the Shrinking Utica Shale Play

Oil, Gas, and Brine Oh My!
By Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

It was just three years ago that the Ohio Geological Survey (OGS) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were proposing – and expanding – their bullish stance on the potential Utica Shale oil and gas production “play.” Back in April 2012 both agencies continue[d] to redraw their best guess, although as the Ohio Geological Survey’s Chief Larry Wickstrom cautioned, “It doesn’t mean anywhere you go in the core area that you will have a really successful well.”

What we found is that the OGS projections have not held up to their substantial claims. And here is why…

Background

The Geological Survey eventually parsed the Utica play into pieces:

  • a large oil component encompassing much of the central part of the state,
  • natural gas liquids from Ashtabula on the Pennsylvania border southwest to Muskingum, Guernsey, and Noble Counties, and
  • natural gas counties, primarily, along the Ohio River from Columbiana on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border to Washington County in the Southeast quarter of the state.
Columbus Dispatch Utica Shale "play" map

Columbus Dispatch Utica Shale “play” map

Fast forward to the first quarter of 2015 and we have a very healthy dataset to begin to model and validate/refute these projections. Back in 2009 Wickstrom & Co. only had 53 Utica Shale laterals, while today Ohio is host to 962 laterals from which to draw our conclusions. The preponderance of producing wells are operated by Chesapeake (463), Gulfport (118), Antero Resources (62), Eclipse Resources (41), American Energy Utica (36), Consol (35), and R.E. Gas Development (34), with an additional 13 LLCs and 10 publicly traded companies accounting for the remaining 173 producing laterals. A further difference between the following analysis and the OGS one is that we looked at total production and how much oil and gas was produced on a per-day basis.

Analysis

Using an interpolative geostatistical technique known as Empirical Bayesian Kriging and the 962 lateral dataset, we modeled total and per day oil, gas, and brine production for Ohio’s Utica Shale between 2011 and Q1-2015 to determine if the aforementioned map redrawing holds up, is out-of-date, and/or is overly optimistic as is generally the case with initial O&G “moving target” projections.

Days of Activity & Brine Production

The most active regions of the Utica Shale for well pad activity has been much of Muskingum County and its border with Guernsey and Noble counties; laterals are in production every 1 in 2.1-3.4 days. Conversely, the least active wells have been drilled along the Harrison-Belmont border and the intersection between Harrison, Tuscarawas, and Guernsey counties.

Brine is a form of liquid drilling waste characterized by high salt loads and total dissolved solids. The laterals that have produced the most brine to date are located in a large section of Monroe County and at the intersection of Belmont, Monroe, and Noble counties, with total brine production amounting to 23,292 barrels or 734,000-978,000 gallons (Fig. 1).

Total Ohio Utica Shale Production Days 2011 to Q1-2015

Total Ohio Utica Shale Oil Production 2011 to Q1-2015

Total Ohio Utica Shale Gas Production 2011 to Q1-2015

Total Ohio Utica Shale Brine Production 2011 to Q1-2015

Figure 1. Total Ohio Utica Shale Oil, Gas, and Brine Production 2011 to Q1-2015

This area is also one of the top three regions of the state with respect to Class II Injection volumes; the other two high-brine production regions are Morrow and Portage counties to the west and southwest, respectively (Fig. 2).

Layout & Volume (2010 to Q1-2015, Gallons) of Ohio’s Active Class II Injection Wells

Figure 2. Layout & Volume (2010 to Q1-2015, Gallons) of Ohio’s Active Class II Injection Wells

However, on a per-day basis we are seeing quite a few inefficient laterals across the state, including Devon Energy’s Eichelberger and Richman Farms laterals in Ashland and Medina counties. Ashland and Medina are producing 230-270 barrels (8,453-9,923 gallons) of brine per day. In Carroll County, one of Chesapeake’s Trushell laterals tops the list for brine production at 1,843 barrels (67,730 gallons) per day. One of Gulfport’s Bolton laterals in Belmont County and EdgeMarc’s Merlin 10PPH in Washington County are generating 1,100-1,200 barrels (40,425-44,100 gallons) of brine per day.

Oil & Gas Production

Since the last time we modeled production the oil hotspots have shrunk. They have also become more discrete and migrated southward – all of this in contrast to the model proposed by the OGS in 2012. The areas of greatest productivity (i.e., >26,000 barrels of oil) are not the central part of the state, but rather Tuscarawas, Harrison, Guernsey, and Noble counties (Fig. 1). The intersection of Harrison, Tuscarawas, and Guernsey counties is where oil productivity per-day is highest – in the range of 300-630+ barrels (Fig. 3). The areas that the OGS proposed had the highest oil potential have produced <600 barrels total or <12 barrels per day.

Per Day Ohio Utica Shale Oil Production 2011 to Q1-2015

Per Day Ohio Utica Shale Gas Production 2011 to Q1-2015

Per Day Ohio Utica Shale Brine Production 2011 to Q1-2015

Figure 3. Per-Day Ohio Utica Shale Oil, Gas, and Brine Production 2011 to Q1-2015

The OGS natural gas region has proven to be another area of extremely low oil productivity.

Natural gas productivity in the Utica Shale is far less extensive than the OGS projected back in 2012. High gas production is restricted to discreet areas of Belmont and Monroe counties to the tune of 947,000-4.1 million Mcf to date – or 5,300-18,100 Mcf per day. While the OGS projected natural gas and natural gas liquid potential all the way from Medina to Fairfield and Perry counties, we found a precipitous drop-off in productivity in these counties to <1,028 Mcf per day (<155,000 Mcf total from 2011 to Q1-2015) or a mere 6-11% of the Belmont-Monroe sweet spot.

Conclusion: A Shrinking Utica Shale Play

Simply put, the OGS 2012 estimates:

  • Have not held up,
  • Are behind the times and unreliable with respect to citizens looking to guestimate potential royalties,
  • Were far too simplistic,
  • Mapped high-yield sections of the “play” as continuous when in fact productive zones are small and discrete,
  • Did not differentiate between per day and total productivity, and
  • Did not address brine waste.

These issues should be addressed by the OGS and ODNR on a more transparent and frequent basis. Combine this analysis with the disappointing returns Ohio’s 17 publicly traded drilling firms are delivering and one might conclude that the structural Utica Shale bubble is about to burst. However, we know that when all else fails these same firms can just “lever up,” like their Rocky Mountain brethren, to maintain or marginally increase production and shareholder happiness. Will these Red Queens of the O&G industry stay ahead of the Big Bank and Private Equity hounds on their trail?

Washington Co. Production Layout

A Closer Look at PA’s Unconventional Production Data

By Matt Kelso, Manager of Data and Technology

Twice per year, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) releases its unconventional oil and gas production and waste reports, which is a good opportunity to check on what’s happening with the industry as a whole. In the past, FracTracker has analyzed this data as soon as it became available. That strategy proved to be a mistake, however, as it is common for some of the operators to release data after the deadline, meaning that early versions of the report can be incomplete. To mitigate the effects of late reporting, the data in this analysis was downloaded from the PADEP on March 10, 2015, several weeks after the reports were first published.

While the production and waste reports are released together, and appear together on the same map below, the FracTracker Alliance will analyze the data from these two reports in separate blogs, with this one focusing on PA’s unconventional production data.


PA Unconventional O&G Production and Waste – July 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014. Click here to access the full screen map, with legend, details, and additional controls.

Producing Wells

The production report lists the amount of gas produced per well in thousands of cubic feet (Mcf), as well as oil and condensate totals in 42 gallon barrels. Also included are the spud date and the number of days that each well produced in each of the three categories. This allows us to take a look at how the age of the well factors into its daily production rates:

Average daily production values for PA unconventional wells between July and December 2014, sorted by year well was spudded.

Figure 1: Average daily production values for PA unconventional wells between July and December 2014, sorted by year well was spudded.

The average daily production values in Figure 1 were calculated from all wells reporting production for the given commodity type. For example, of the 1,467 wells on the report with a spud date in 2010, 1,221 (83.2%) of those produced some gas in the latest reporting period, and the average daily production of that group is 1,300 Mcf. Only 102 wells spudded that same year reported condensate production, averaging 6 barrels per day, and 35 wells produced oil, also averaging 6 barrels per day. It’s also worth pointing out that the majority of wells drilled last year were not yet in production for the reporting period.

Wells drilled in 2013 produced 38% less gas than wells those drilled in 2014, and the newer wells are producing 4.4 times as much as wells drilled in 2010.

Average daily production (Mcf) for unconventional wells in PA between July and December 2014, sorted by spud year.

Figure 2: Average daily production (Mcf) for unconventional wells in PA between July and December 2014, sorted by spud year.

In Pennsylvania, gas production amounts are quite high, while liquid hydrocarbon returns are fairly modest. In this six month period, operators reported 2.13 trillion cubic feet of gas production, 2.1 million barrels of condensate, and 171 thousand barrels of oil. Over 71% of all oil was produced in Washington County in Southwestern Pennsylvania, while other counties in the western part of the state made up the rest of the production. Washington County also accounts for 94% of all condensate produced from the state’s unconventional wells.

FracTracker wanted to see if there were any liquid production trends when we sorted the data by operator. Of the 1,146 active wells on the report in Washington County, 769 (67%) are operated by Range Resources Appalachia, LLC. Their wells produced 1,955,302 barrels (97%) of the condensate in the county, meaning that the remaining 377 wells from other operators produced a combined 50,915 barrels of condensate.

At first, it seems a bit anomalous that all of the other producers in the county should have such low a total for condensate. Some of this is likely attributable to defining the difference between condensate and oil. The way the data are presented, it seems as if they are two separate liquid hydrocarbon products. However, the difference really amounts to the liquid’s density, with heavier, thicker fluids considered to be oil, while condensates occupy the lighter, less viscous end of the spectrum. Condensate is also legal to export, while crude oil is not.

Oil and condensate production in Washington County from July to December 2014, by operator.

Figure 3: Oil and condensate production in Washington County from July to December 2014, by operator.

With this in mind, when we look at the liquid production in Washington County over the six month period, it seems likely that what Range Resources considered to be condensate was classified as oil by Chesapeake. The complete lack of liquid hydrocarbon production by any of the 259 wells operated by CNX, Rice, or EQT in the county does seem curious at first, but none of the three operators are active in any of the six municipalities reporting 100,000 or more barrels of liquids. Unconventional liquid hydrocarbon production in Washington County – and PA for that matter – is limited geographically, with the highest returns limited to a handful of municipalities close to the northern panhandle of West Virginia.


Unconventional wells reporting liquid production in Washington County from July to December 2014. Among unconventional wells in Pennsylvania, those in Washington County accounts for over 71% of oil production and 94% of condensate production.

Non-Producing Wells

Spudded PA Unconventional wells not producing - July to December 2014

Figure 4: Spudded PA Unconventional wells not producing – July to December 2014

Altogether, there are 2,351 wells on the production report that are listed as spudded but are not producing any of the three commodity types. The report includes a section for operators to explain why there is no production, as well as data about the well’s status. The reason that the majority of these wells are not producing are relatively straightforward; they are either plugged, have an inactive status, are not yet complete, or are shut-in, awaiting a pipeline connection.

In prior discussions with PADEP, active wells were described to us as those that had been spudded and not yet permanently plugged. There are also some conditions that can put the well into an inactive status at the operator’s request, for up to five years.

Figure 5: Operators with the most unconventional active wells that are not in production – excluding observation wells, those that were not completed during the reporting period, or those that are shut-in, awaiting additional infrastructure.

Still, there are a number of active wells that don’t fall into any of these categories, leaving us with no clear idea as to why they are not producing. The 10 operators with with the most active wells not in production – excluding observation, incomplete, and shut-in wells – are listed in Figure 5: Chevron, Chief, Southwestern, Cabot, and Anadarko.

Included in the statewide totals are three wells listed as having the incorrect operator, 32 wells where the reason for no production is listed as “Plugged well” but the well status is active, and 339 wells with active statuses where the reason for no production was left blank. Two operators, Chevron Appalachia and Chief Oil & Gas, account for 46% of these wells where the reason for non-production is uncertain.

 

Is Carroll Co. truly the king of Ohio’s Utica counties?

Yes and No…

By Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

We know from the most recent Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) permitting numbers that Carroll County, Ohio is home to 26% (461 of 1,778) of the state’s Utica permits and 43% (312 of 712) of all producing wells as of the end of Q3-20141 (Figure 1). But does that mean that the county will continue to see that kind of industrial activity for the foreseeable future? The primary question we wanted to ask with this latest piece is whether the putative “king” of the state’s Utica shale gas counties is indeed Carroll County.

Ohio’s Utica Permits within & adjacent to the Muskingum River Watershed as of February, 2015.

Fig 1. Ohio’s Utica Permits within & adjacent to the Muskingum River Watershed as of February, 2015

To do this we compiled an inventory of annual (2011-2012) and quarterly OH shale gas production numbers for 721 laterals throughout southeast OH.

Permitting and production numbers are not necessarily part and parcel to determine if Carrol Co is truly the king. We decided to investigate the production data and do a simple compare and contrast with the rest of the state’s 409 laterals on one side (ROS) and the 312 Carroll laterals on the other – focusing primarily on days of production and resulting oil, gas, and brine (Table 1 and infographic below).

Carroll vs. ROS Results

Permitting Numbers Breakdown

Monthly and cumulative Utica Shale permitting activity in Carrol County, OH vs. the Rest of State (ROS) between September 2010 and January 2015

Fig 2. Monthly & cumulative Utica Shale permitting activity in Carrol County, OH vs. the ROS between September 2010 & January 2015

Between the initial permitting phase of September 2010 and January 2105 the number of Utica Shale permits issued in the ROS has averaged 29 per month vs. 10 per month in Carroll County. Permitting actually increased twofold in the ROS in the last 12 months (Figure 2). Conversely, permitting in Carroll County seems to have reached some sort of a steady state, with monthly permitting declining by 23% in the last 12 months. Carroll’s Utica permits generally constituted 47% of all permitting in OH but more recently has dipped to 44%. Newer areas of focus include Belmont, Guernsey, Noble, and Columbiana counties, just to name a few.

Production Days

Days in production is a proxy for road activity and labor hours. Carroll’s wells have the rest of the state beat for that metric, with an average of 292 (±188 days) days. The state average is 192 days, with significant well-to-well variability (±177 days). If we assume there was a total of 1,369 possible production days between 2011 and the end of Q3-2014, these averages translate to 21% and 14% of total possible production days for Carroll and ROS, respectively.

Oil Production

Carroll falls short of the ROS on a total and per-day basis of oil production, although the 442-barrel difference in total oil production is likely not significant. Carroll wells are producing 74 barrels of oil per day (OPD) (±73 OPD) compared to 96 OPD (±122 OPD) for the rest of the state; however, well-to-well variability is so large as to make this type of comparison quite difficult at this juncture. Fifty-seven percent of OH’s 11,361,332 barrels of Utica oil has been produced outside of Carroll County to date. This level of production is equivalent to 16,231 rail tanker cars and roughly 00.18% of US oil production between 2011 and 2013.

This number of rail tanker cars is equivalent to 6% of the US DOT-111 fleet, or 184 miles worth of trains – enough to stretch from Columbus to Pittsburgh.

Natural Gas

The natural gas story is mixed, with Carroll’s 312 wells having produced 13,430 MCF more than the ROS wells. On a per-well basis, however, the latter are producing 3,327 MCF per day (MCFPD) (±3,477 MCFPD) relative to the 2,155 MCFPD (±1,264 MCFPD) average for Carroll’s wells. Yet again, well-to-well variability – especially in the case of the 409 ROS wells – is high enough that such simple comparisons would require further statistical analysis to determine whether differences are significant or not.

The natural gas produced here in OH currently amounts to roughly 00.51% of U.S. Natural Gas Marketed Production, according to the latest data from the EIA.

Waste – Brine

From a waste generation point of view, the ROS laterals have produced 41 more barrels of brine per day (BPD) than the Carroll laterals and 1,465 BPD since production began in 2011. On a per-day basis, the ROS laterals are producing more oil than waste at a rate of 1.92 barrels of oil per barrel of brine waste. Conversely, since production began these respective sums result in Carroll County laterals having produced 1.56 barrels of oil for every barrel of brine vs. the 1.40 oil-to-brine ratio for the ROS. Finally, it is worth noting that the 7,775,130 barrels of brine produced here in OH amounts to 13% of all fracking waste processed by the state’s 235+ Class II Injection wells.

What do these figures mean?

As we begin to compare OH’s Utica Shale expectations vs. reality we see that the “sweet spot” of the play is truly a moving target. The train seems to have already left – or is in the process of leaving – the station in Carroll County (Figures 3 and 4). It seems two of the most important questions to ask now are:

  1. How will this rapidly shifting flow of capital, labor, and resources affect future counties deemed the next best thing? and
  2. What will be left in the wake of such hot money flows?

Answers to these questions will be integral to the preparation for the inevitable sudden or slow-and-steady decline in shale gas activity. These dropouts are just the most recent in a long line of boom-bust cycles to have been foisted on Southeast OH and Appalachia. Effects will include questions regarding watershed resilience, local and regional resource utilization (Figures 5 and 6), social cohesion, tax-base uncertainty, roads, and a rapidly changing physical landscape.

Whether Carroll County can maintain its perch on top of the OH shale mountain is far from certain, but whether it will have to begin to – or should have already – prepare for the downside of this cliff is fact based on the above analysis.

Additional Figures and Charts

Table 1. Carroll County, OH production days and production of oil, gas, and brine on a per-day basis and in total between 2011 and Q3-2014 vis à vis the “Rest of State”

Variable Carroll (312) Rest of State (409)
Max Sum Mean Max Sum Mean
Total Days 914 91,193 292±188 898 78,430 192±177
Oil (Barrels)
Per Day 453 23,190 74±73 601 39,109 96±122
Total 83,098 4,838,147 15,507 129,005 6,523,185 15,949
Gas (MCF)
Per Day 6,774 672,391 2,155±1,264 18,810 1,360,923 3,327±3,477
Total 2,196,240 168,739,064 540,830 3,181,013 215,706,401 527,400
Brine (Barrels)
Per Day 941 18,516 59±87 810 40,839 100±120
Total 36,917 3,105,260 9,953 99,095 4,669,870 11,418
Oil Per Unit of Brine
Per Day 1.25 1.92
Total 1.56 1.40

Figures 3a-d. Spatial distribution of Carroll County Utica Shale production days, oil (barrels), natural gas (MCF), and brine (barrels) on a per-day basis.

Spatial distribution of Carroll County Utica Shale production days

Fig 3a. Spatial distribution of Carroll Co. Utica Shale production days

Spatial distribution of Carroll County Utica Shale oil (barrels) production on a per-day basis

Fig 3b. Spatial distribution of Carroll Co. Utica Shale oil (barrels) production on per-day basis

Spatial distribution of Carroll County Utica Shale natural gas (MCF) production on a per-day basis

Fig 3c. Spatial distribution of Carroll Co. Utica Shale natural gas (MCF) production on per-day basis

Spatial distribution of Carroll County Utica Shale brine (barrels) production on a per-day basis

Fig 3d. Spatial distribution of Carroll County Utica Shale brine (barrels) production on a per-day basis

Figures 4a-d. Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale production days, oil (barrels), natural gas (MCF), and brine (barrels) on a per-day basis.

Ohio Utica Shale Total Production Days, 2011-2014

Fig 4a. Ohio Utica Shale Total Production Days, 2011-2014

Ohio Utica Shale Total Oil Production (Barrels), 2011-2014

Fig 4b. Ohio Utica Shale Total Oil Production (Barrels), 2011-2014

Ohio Utica Shale Total Natural Gas Production (MCF), 2011-2014

Fig 4c. Ohio Utica Shale Total Natural Gas Production (MCF), 2011-2014

Ohio Utica Shale Total Brine Production (Barrels), 2011-2014

Fig 4d. Ohio Utica Shale Total Brine Production (Barrels), 2011-2014

Figures 5a-d. Histograms and Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total hydrochloric acid (HCl, gallons) and silica sand (tons) demands.

Histogram of OH Utica Shale total Hydrochloric Acid (HCl, gallons)

Fig 5a. Histogram of OH Utica Shale total Hydrochloric Acid (HCl, gallons)

Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total Hydrochloric Acid (HCl, gallons)

Fig 5b. Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total Hydrochloric Acid (HCl, gallons)

Histogram of OH Utica Shale total Silica Sand (10^3 Tons)

Fig 5c. Histogram of OH Utica Shale total Silica Sand (10^3 Tons)

Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total Silica Sand (Tons)

Fig 5d. Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total Silica Sand (Tons)

Figures 6a-b. Histograms and Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total resource utilization in terms of pounds per lateral.

Histogram of OH Utica Shale total materials used (10^6 Pounds)

Fig 6a. Histogram of OH Utica Shale total materials used (10^6 Pounds)

Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total materials used (Pounds)

Fig 6b. Spatial distribution of OH Utica Shale total materials used (Pounds)

Endnote

1. Additionally, all of Carroll County’s permitted wells lie within the already – and increasingly so – stressed Muskingum River Watershed (MRW) which has been a significant source of freshwater for the shale gas industry courtesy of the novel pricing schemes of its managing body the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) (Figure 1). Carroll laterals are requiring 5.41 million gallons per lateral Vs the state average of 6.58 million gallons per lateral.

The Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio, Part II

OH Utica Production, Water Usage, and Waste Disposal by County
Part II of a Multi-part Series
By Ted Auch, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

In this part of our ongoing “Water-Energy Nexus” series focusing on Water and Water Use, we are looking at how counties in Ohio differ between how much oil and gas are produced, as well as the amount of water used and waste produced. This analysis also highlights how the OH DNR’s initial Utica projections differ dramatically from the current state of affairs. In the first article in this series, we conducted an analysis of OH’s water-energy nexus showing that Utica wells are using an ave. of 5 million gallons/well. As lateral well lengths increase, so does water use. In this analysis we demonstrate that:

  1. Drillers have to use more water, at higher pressures, to extract the same unit of oil or gas that they did years ago,
  2. Where production is relatively high, water usage is lower,
  3. As fracking operations move to the perimeter of a marginally productive play – and smaller LLCs and MLPs become a larger component of the landscape – operators are finding minimal returns on $6-8 million in well pad development costs,
  4. Market forces and Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) policy has allowed industry to exploit OH’s freshwater resources at bargain basement prices relative to commonly agreed upon water pricing schemes.

At current prices1, the shale gas industry is allocating < 0.27% of total well pad costs to current – and growing – freshwater requirements. It stands to reason that this multi-part series could be a jumping off point for a more holistic discussion of how we price our “endless” freshwater resources here in OH.

In an effort to better understand the inter-county differences in water usage, waste production, and hydrocarbon productivity across OH’s 19 Utica Shale counties we compiled a data-set for 500+ Utica wells which was previously used to look at differenced in these metrics across the state’s primary industry players. The results from Table 1 below are discussed in detail in the subsequent sections.

Table 1. Hydrocarbon production totals and per day values with top three producers in bold

County

# Wells

Total

Per Day

Oil

Gas

Brine

Production

Days

Oil

Gas

Brine

Ashland

1

0

0

23,598

102

0

0

231

Belmont

32

55,017

39,564,446

450,134

4,667

20

8,578

125

Carroll

256

3,715,771

121,812,758

2,432,022

66,935

67

2,092

58

Columbiana

26

165,316

9,759,353

189,140

6,093

20

2,178

65

Coshocton

1

949

0

23,953

66

14

0

363

Guernsey

29

726,149

7,495,066

275,617

7,060

147

1,413

49

Harrison

74

2,200,863

31,256,851

1,082,239

17,335

136

1,840

118

Jefferson

14

8,396

9,102,302

79,428

2,819

2

2,447

147

Knox

1

0

0

9,078

44

0

0

206

Mahoning

3

2,562

0

4,124

287

9

0

14

Medina

1

0

0

20,217

75

0

0

270

Monroe

12

28,683

13,077,480

165,424

2,045

22

7,348

130

Muskingum

1

18,298

89,689

14,073

455

40

197

31

Noble

39

1,326,326

18,251,742

390,791

7,731

268

3,379

267

Portage

2

2,369

75,749

10,442

245

19

168

228

Stark

1

17,271

166,592

14,285

602

29

277

24

Trumbull

8

48,802

742,164

127,222

1,320

36

566

100

Tuscarawas

1

9,219

77,234

2,117

369

25

209

6

Washington

3

18,976

372,885

67,768

368

59

1,268

192

Production

Total

It will come as no surprise to the reader that OH’s Utica oil and gas production is being led by Carroll County, followed distantly by Harrison, Noble, Belmont, Guernsey and Columbiana counties. Carroll has produced 3.7 million barrels of oil to date, while the latter have combined to produce an additional 4.5 million barrels. Carroll wells have been in production for nearly 67,000 days2, while the aforementioned county wells have been producing for 42,886 days. The remaining counties are home to 49 wells that have been in production for nearly 8,800 days or 7% of total production days in Ohio.

Combined with the state’s remaining 49 producing wells spread across 13 counties, OH’s Utica Shale has produced 8.3 million barrels of oil as well as 251,844,311 Mcf3 of natural gas and 5.4 million barrels of brine. Oil and natural gas together have an estimated value of $2.99 billion ($213 million per quarter)4 assuming average oil and natural gas prices of $96 per barrel and $8.67 per Mcf during the current period of production (2011 to Q2-2014), respectively.

Potential Revenue at Different Severance Tax Rates:

  • Current production tax, 0.5-0.8%: $19 million ($1.4 Million Per Quarter (MPQ). At this rate it would take the oil and gas industry 35 years to generate the $4.6 billion in tax revenue they proposed would be generated by 2020.
  • Proposed, 1% gas and 4% oil: At Governor Kasich’s proposed tax rate, $2.99 billion translates into $54 million ($3.9 MPQ). It would still take 21 years to return the aforementioned $4.6 billion to the state’s coffers.
  • Proposed, 5-7%: Even at the proposed rate of 5-7% by Policy Matters OH and northeastern OH Democrats, the industry would only have generated $179 million ($12.8 MPQ) to date. It would take 11 years to generate the remaining $4.42 billion in tax revenue promised by OH Oil and Gas Association’s (OOGA) partners at IHS “Energy Oil & Gas Industry Solutions” (NYSE: IHS).5

The bottom-line is that a production tax of 11-25% or more ($24-53 MPQ) would be necessary to generate the kind of tax revenue proposed by the end of 2020. This type of O&G taxation regime is employed in the states of Alaska and Oklahoma.

From an outreach and monitoring perspective, effects on air and water quality are two of the biggest gaps in our understanding of shale gas from a socioeconomic, health, and environmental perspective. Pulling out a mere 1% from any of these tax regimes would generate what we’ll call an “Environmental Monitoring Fee.” Available monitoring funds would range between $194,261 and $1.8 million ($16 million at 55%). These monies would be used to purchase 2-21 mobile air quality devices and 10-97 stream quantity/quality gauges to be deployed throughout the state’s primary shale counties to fill in the aforementioned data gaps.

Per-Day Production

On a per-day oil production basis, Belmont and Columbiana (20 barrels per day (BPD)) are overshadowed by Washington (59 BPD) and Muskingum (40 BPD) counties’ four giant Utica wells. Carroll is able to maintain such a high level of production relative to the other 15 counties by shear volume of producing wells; Noble (268 BPD), Guernsey (147 BPD), and Harrison (136 BPD) counties exceed Carroll’s production on a per-day basis. The bottom of the league table includes three oil-free wells in Ashland, Knox, and Medina, as well as seventeen <10 BPD wells in Jefferson and Mahoning counties.

With respect to natural gas, Harrison (1,840 Mcf per day (MPD)) and Guernsey counties are replaced by Monroe (7,348 MPD) and Jefferson (2,447 MPD) counties’ 26 Utica wells. The range of production rates for natural gas is represented by the king of natural gas producers, Belmont County, producing 8,578 MPD on the high end and Mahoning and Coshocton counties in addition to the aforementioned oil dry counties on the low end. Four of the five oil- or gas-dry counties produce the least amount of brine each day (BrPD). Coshocton, Medina, and Noble county Utica wells are currently generating 267-363 barrels of BrPD, with an additional seven counties generating 100-200 BrPD. Only four counties – 1.2% of OH Utica wells – are home to unconventional wells that generate ≤ 30 BrPD.

Water Usage

Freshwater is needed for the hydraulic fracturing process during well stimulation. For counties where we had compiled a respectable sample size we found that Monroe and Noble counties are home to the Utica wells requiring the greatest amount of freshwater to obtain acceptable levels of productivity (Figure 1). Monroe and Noble wells are using 10.6 and 8.8 million gallons (MGs) of water per well. Coshocton is home to a well that required 10.8 MGs, while Muskingum and Washington counties are home to wells that have utilized 10.2 and 9.5 MGs, respectively. Belmont, Guernsey, and Harrison reflect the current average state of freshwater usage by the Utica Shale industry in OH, with average requirements of 6.4, 6.9, and 7.2 MGs per well. Wells in eight other counties have used an average of 3.8 (Mahoning) to 5.4 MGs (Tuscarawas). The counties of Ashland, Knox, and Medina are home to wells requiring the least amount of freshwater in the range of 2.2-2.9 MGs. Overall freshwater demand on a per well basis is increasing by 220,500-333,300 gallons per quarter in Ohio with percent recycled water actually declining by 00.54% from an already trivial average of 6-7% in 2011 (Figure 2).

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale.

Figure 1. Average water usage (gallons) per Utica well by county

Average water usage (gallons) on a per well basis by OH’s Utica Shale industry, shown quarterly between Q3-2010 and Q2-2014.

Figure 2. Average water usage (gallons) on per well basis by OH Utica Shale industry, shown quarterly between Q3-2010 & Q2-2014.

Belmont County’s 30+ Utica wells are the least efficient with respect to oil recovery relative to freshwater requirements, averaging 7,190 gallons of water per gallon of oil (Figure 3). A distant second is Jefferson County’s 14 wells, which have required on average 3,205 gallons of water per gallon of oil. Columbiana’s 26 Utica wells are in third place requiring 1,093 gallons of freshwater. Coshocton, Mahoning, Monroe, and Portage counties are home to wells requiring 146-473 gallons for each gallon of oil produced.

Belmont County’s 14 Utica wells are the least efficient with respect to natural gas recovery relative to freshwater requirements (Figure 4). They average 1,306 gallons of water per Mcf. A distant second is Carroll County’s 250+ wells, which have injected 520 gallons of water 7,000+ feet below the earth’s service to produce a single Mcf of natural gas. Muskingum’s Utica well and Noble County’s 39 wells are the only other wells requiring more than 100 gallons of freshwater per Mcf. The remaining nine counties’ wells require 15-92 gallons of water to produce an Mcf of natural gas.

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale – Average Water Usage Per Unit of Oil Produced (Gallons of Water Per Gallon of Oil).

Figure 3. Average water usage (gallons) per unit of oil (gallons) produced across 19 Ohio Utica counties

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale – Average Water Usage Per Unit of Gas Produced (Gallons of Water Per MCF of Gas)

Figure 4. Average water usage (gallons) per unit of gas produced (Mcf) across 19 Ohio Utica counties

Waste Production

The aforementioned Jefferson wells are the least efficient with respect to waste vs. product produced. Jefferson wells are generating 12,728 gallons of brine per gallon of oil (Figure 5).6 Wells from this county are followed distantly by the 32 Belmont and 26 Columbiana county wells, which are generating 5,830 and 3,976 gallons of brine per unit of oil.5 The remaining counties (for which we have data) are using 8-927 gallons of brine per unit of oil; six counties’ wells are generating <38 gallons of brine per gallon of oil.

Water and production (Mcf and barrels of oil per day) in OH’s Utica Shale – Average Brine Production Per Unit of Oil Produced (Gallons of Brine Per Gallon of Oil)

Figure 5. Average brine production (gallons) per gallon of oil produced per day across 19 Ohio Utica Counties

The average Utica well in OH is generating 820 gallons of fracking waste per unit of product produced. Across all OH Utica wells, an average of 0.078 gallons of brine is being generated for every gallon of freshwater used. This figure amounts to a current total of 233.9 MGs of brine waste produce statewide. Over the next five years this trend will result in the generation of one billion gallons (BGs) of brine waste and 12.8 BGs of freshwater required in OH. Put another way…

233.9 MGs is equivalent to the annual waste production of 5.2 million Ohioans – or 45% of the state’s current population. 

Due to the low costs incurred by industry when they choose to dispose of their fracking waste in OH, drillers will have only to incur $100 million over the next five years to pay for the injection of the above 1.0 BGs of brine. Ohioans, however, will pay at least $1.5 billion in the same time period to dispose of their municipal solid waste. The average fee to dispose of every ton of waste is $32, which means that the $100 million figure is at the very least $33.5 million – and as much as $250.6 million – less than we should expect industry should be paying to offset the costs.

Environmental Accounting

In summary, there are two ways to look at the potential “energy revolution” that is shale gas:

  1. Using the same traditional supply-side economics metrics we have used in the past (e.g., globalization, Efficient Market Hypothesis, Trickle Down Economics, Bubbles Don’t Exist) to socialize long-term externalities and privatize short-term windfall profits, or
  2. We can begin to incorporate into the national dialogue issues pertaining to watershed resilience, ecosystem services, and the more nuanced valuation of our ecosystems via Ecological Economics.

The latter will require a more real-time and granular understanding of water resource utilization and fracking waste production at the watershed and regional scale, especially as it relates to headline production and the often-trumpeted job generating numbers.

We hope to shed further light on this new “environmental accounting” as it relates to more thorough and responsible energy development policy at the state, federal, and global levels. The life cycle costs of shale gas drilling have all too often been ignored and can’t be if we are to generate the types of energy our country demands while also stewarding our ecosystems. As Mark Twain is reported to have said “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” In order to avoid such a battle over the water-energy nexus in the long run it is imperative that we price in the shale gas industry’s water-use footprint in the near term. As we have demonstrated so far with this series this issue is far from settled here in OH and as they say so goes Ohio so goes the nation!

A Moving Target

ODNR projection map of potential Utica productivity from Spring, 2012

Figure 6. ODNR projection map of potential Utica productivity from spring 2012

OH’s Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) originally claimed a big red – and nearly continuous – blob of Utica productivity existed. The projection originally stretched from Ashtabula and Trumbull counties south-southwest to Tuscarawas, Guernsey, and Coshocton along the Appalachian Plateau (See Figure 6).

However, our analysis demonstrates that (Figures 7 and 8):

  1. This is a rapidly moving target,
  2. The big red blob isn’t as big – or continuous – as once projected, and
  3. It might not even include many of the counties once thought to be the heart of the OH Utica shale play.

This last point is important because counties, families, investors, and outside interests were developing investment and/or savings strategies based on this map and a 30+ year timeframe – neither of which may be even remotely close according to our model.

An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model for Q1-2013 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 7a. An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model using Kriging6 for Q1-2013

An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model for Q2-2014 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 7b. An Ohio Utica Shale oil production model using Kriging for Q2-2014

An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model for Q1-2013 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 8a. An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model using Kriging for Q1-2013

An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model for Q2-2014 using an interpolative Geostatistical technique called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

Figure 8b. An Ohio Utica Shale gas production model using Kriging for Q2-2014


Footnotes

  1. $4.25 per 1,000 gallons, which is the current going rate for freshwater at OH’s MWCD New Philadelphia headquarters, is 4.7-8.2 times less than residential water costs at the city level according to Global Water Intelligence.
  2. Carroll County wells have seen days in production jump from 36-62 days in 2011-2012 to 68-78 in 2014 across 256 producing wells as of Q2-2014.
  3. One Mcf is a unit of measurement for natural gas referring to 1,000 cubic feet, which is approximately enough gas to run an American household (e.g. heat, water heater, cooking) for four days.
  4. Assuming average oil and natural gas prices of $96 per barrel and $8.67 per Mcf during the current period of production (2011 to Q2-2014), respectively
  5. IHS’ share price has increased by $1.7 per month since publishing a report about the potential of US shale gas as a job creator and revenue generator
  6. On a per-API# basis or even regional basis we have not found drilling muds data. We do have it – and are in the process of making sense of it – at the Solid Waste District level.
  7. An interpolative Geostatistical technique formally called Empirical Bayesian Kriging.

The Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio, Part I

OH Utica Production, Water Usage, and Changes in Lateral Length
Part I of a Multi-part Series
By Ted Auch, OH Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

As shale gas expands in Ohio, how too does water use? We conducted an analysis of 500+ Utica wells in an effort to better understand the water-energy nexus in Ohio between production, water usage, and lateral length across 500+ Utica wells. The following is a list of the primary findings from this analysis:

Lateral Length

Modified EIA.gov Schematic Highlighting the Lateral Portion of the Well

Figure 1. Modified EIA schematic highlighting the lateral portion of the unconventional well

In unconventional oil and gas drilling, often operators need to drill both vertically and then laterally to follow the formation underground. This process increases the amount of shale that the well contacts (see the modified EIA schematic in Figure 1). As a general rule Ohio’s Utica wells transition to the horizontal or lateral phase at around 6,800 feet below the earth’s surface.

1. The average Utica lateral is increasing in length by 51-55 feet per quarter, up from an average of 6,369 feet between Q3-2010 and Q2-2011 to 6,872 feet in the last four quarters. Companies’ lateral length growth varies, for example:

    • Gulfport is increasing by 46 feet (+67,206 gallons of water),
    • R.E. Gas Development and Antero 92 feet (+134,412 gallons of water), and
    • Chesapeake 28 feet (+40,908 gallons of water).

2. An increase in lateral length accounts for 40% of the increase in the water usage, as we have discussed in the past.

3. As a general rule, every foot increase in lateral length equates to an increase of 1,461 gallons of freshwater.

Regional and County-Level Trends

This section looks into big picture of shale gas drilling in OH. Herein we summarize the current state of water usage by the Utica shale industry relative to hydrocarbon production, as a percentage of residential water usage, as well as long-term water usage and waste production forecasts.

1. Freshwater Use

    • Across 516 wells, we found that the average OH Utica well utilizes 5.04-5.69 million gallons of freshwater per well.
    • This figure includes a ratio of 12:1 freshwater to recycled water used on site.
    • Water usage is increasing by 221-330,000 gallons per well per quarter.
      • Note: In neighboring – and highly OH freshwater reliant-West Virginia, the average Marcellus well uses 6.1-6.6 million gallons per well, with a trend increase of 189-353,000 gallons per quarter per well.
      • Water usage is up from 4.88 million gallons per well between 2010 and the summer of 2011 to 7.27 million gallons today.
    • Over the next five years, we will likely see 18.5 billion gallons of freshwater used for shale gas drilling in OH.
    • On average, drilling companies use 588 gallons of water to get a gallon of oil.
      • Average: 338 gallons of water required to get 1 MCF of gas
      • Average: 0.078 gallons of brine produced per gallon of water

2. Residential Water Allocation

    • A portion of residential water (3.8-6.1% of usage) is being allocated to the Utica drilling boom.
      • This figure is as high as 81% of residential water requirements in Carroll County.
      • And amounts to 2.2-3.5% of the available water in the Muskingum River Watershed.
    • The allocation will increase over time to amount to 8.2-10.5% of residential usage or 4.4-5.6% of Muskingum River available water.

3. Permitted Wells Potential

    • If all permitted Utica wells were to come online (active), we could expect 299.7 million gallons of additional brine to be produced and an additional 220 million gallons of freshwater a year to be used.
    • This trend amounts to 1.1 billion gallons of fracking brine waste looking for a home within 5 years.

4. Waste Disposal

    • Stallion Oilfield Services has recently purchased several Class II Injection wells in Portage County.
    • These waste disposal sites are increasing their intake at a rate of 2.13 million gallons per quarter, 4.76 times that of the rest of OH Class II wells.

Water Usage By Company

The data trends we have reviewed vary significantly depending on the company that is assessed. Below we summarize the current state of water usage by the major players in Ohio’s Utica shale industry relative to hydrocarbon production. 

1. Overall Statistics

    • The 15 biggest Water-To-Oil offenders are currently averaging 16,844 Gallons of Water per gallon of oil (PGO) (i.e., Shugert 2-12H, Salem-Grubbs 1H, Stutzman 1 and 3-14H, etc).
    • Removing the above 15 brings the Water-To-Oil ratio down from 588 to 52 gallons of water PGO.
    • The 9 biggest Water-To-Gas offenders are currently averaging 16,699 gallons of water per MCF of gas.
    • Removing the above 9 brings the Water-To-Gas ratio down from 338 to 27 gallons of water per MCF of gas.

Company differences are noticeable (Figure 2):

Water Usage by Hydraulic Fracturing Industry in Ohio

Figure 2. Average Freshwater Use Among OH Utica Operators

    • Antero and Anadarko used an average of 9.5 and 8.8 MGs of water per well during the course of the 45-60 drilling process, respectively (Note: HG Energy has the wells with the highest water usage but a limited sample size, with 9.8 MGs per well).
    • Six companies average in the middle with 6.7-8.1 MGs of water per well.
    • Four companies average 5 MGs per well, including Chesapeake the biggest player here in OH.
    • Devon Energy is the one firm using less than 3 MGs of freshwater for each well it drills.

2. Water-to-Oil Ratios

Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio: Water-to-Oil Ratios Among OH Utica Operators

Figure 3. Water-to-Oil Ratios Among OH Utica Operators

Freshwater usage is increasing by 3.6 gallons per gallon of oil. Companies vary less in this metric, except for Gulfport (Figure 3):

    • Gulfport is by far the least efficient user of freshwater with respect to oil production, averaging 3,339 gallons of water to extract one gallon of oil.
    • Intermediate firms include American Energy and Hess, which required 661 and 842 gallons of freshwater to produce a gallon of oil.
    • The remaining eleven firms used anywhere from 6 (Atlas Noble) to 130 (Chesapeake) gallons of freshwater to get a unit of oil.

3. Water-to-Gas Ratios (Figure 4)

Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio: Water-to-Gas Ratio Among OH Utica Operators

Figure 4. Water-to-Gas Ratio Among OH Utica Operators

    • American Energy is also quite inefficient when it comes to natural gas production utilizing >2,200 gallons of freshwater per MCF of natural gas produced
    • Chesapeake and CNX rank a distant second, requiring 437 and 582 gallons of freshwater per MCF of natural gas, respectively.
    • The remaining firms for which we have data are using anywhere from 13 (RE Gas) to 81 (Gulfport) gallons of freshwater per MCF of natural gas.

4. Brine Production (Figure 5)

Water-Energy Nexus in Ohio: Brine-to-Oil Ratios among Ohio Utica Operators

Figure 5. Brine-to-Oil Ratios among Ohio Utica Operators

    • With respect to the relationship between hydrocarbon and waste generation, we see that no firm can match Oklahoma City-based Gulfport’s inefficiencies with an average of 2,400+ gallons of brine produced per gallon of oil.
    • American Energy and Hess are not as wasteful, but they are the only other firms generating more than 750 gallons brine waste per unit of oil.
    • Houston-based Halcon and OH’s primary Utica player Chesapeake Energy are generating slightly more than 400 gallons of brine per gallon of oil.
    • The remaining firms are generating between 17 (Atlas Noble and RE Gas) and 160 (Anadarko) gallons of brine per unit of oil.

Part II of the Series

In the next part of this series we will look into inter-county differences as they relate to water use, production, and lateral length. Additionally, we will also examine how the OH DNR’s initial Utica projections differ dramatically from the current state of affairs.

Water and Production in Ohio's Utica Shale - Water Per Well

Water and Production in Ohio’s Utica Shale – Water Per Well

 

PA Production and Waste Data Updated

Every six months, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) publishes production and waste data for all unconventional wells drilled in the Commonwealth.  These data are self-reported by the industry to PADEP, and in the past, there have been numerous issues with the data not being reported in a timely fashion.  Therefore, the early versions of these two datasets are often incomplete.  For that reason, I now like to wait a few weeks before analyzing and mapping this data, so as to avoid false conclusions.  That time has now come.


This map contains production and waste totals from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania from July to December, 2013. Based on data downloaded March 6, 2014. Also included are facilities that received the waste produced by these wells. To access the legend and other map controls, please click the expanding arrows icon at the top-right corner of the map.

Production

Top 20 unconventional gas producers in PA, from July to December 2013.  The highest values in each column are highlighted in red.

Table 1: Top 20 unconventional gas producers in PA, from July to December 2013. Highest values in each column are highlighted in red.

Production values can be summarized in many ways. In this post, we will summarize the data, first by operator, then by county. For operators, we will take a look at all operators on the production report, and see which operator has the highest total production, as well as production per well (Table 1).

It is important to note that not all of the wells on the report are actually in production, and not all of the ones that are produce for the entire cycle. However, there is some dramatic variance in the production that one might expect from an unconventional well in Pennsylvania that correlates strongly with which operator drilled the well in question.  For example, the average Cabot well produces ten times the gas that the average Atlas well does.  Even among the top two producers, the average Chesapeake well produces 2.75 times as much as the average Range Resources well.

The location of the well is the primary factor in regards to production values.  74 percent of Atlas’ wells are in Greene and Fayette counties, in southwestern Pennsylvania, while 99 percent of Cabot’s wells are in Susquehanna County.  Similarly, 79 percent of Range Resources’ wells are in the its southwestern PA stronghold of Washington County, while 62 percent of Chesapeake’s wells are in Bradford county, in the northeast.

Pennsylvania unconventional gas production by county, from July to December 2013.

Table 2: PA unconventional gas production by county, from July to December 2013

Altogether, there are unconventional wells drilled in 38 Pennsylvania counties, 33 of which have wells that are producing (see Table 2).  And yet, fully 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of t he 1.7 Tcf produced by unconventional wells during the six month period in Pennsylvania came from the three northeastern counties of Susquehanna, Bradford, and Lycoming.

While production in Greene County does not compare to production in Susquehanna, this disparity still does not account for the really poor production of Atlas wells, as that operator averages less than one fourth of the typical well in the county.  Nor can we blame the problem on inactive wells, as 84 of their 85 wells in Greene County are listed as being in production.  There is an explanation, however.  All of  these Atlas wells were drilled from 2006 through early 2010, so none of them are in the peak of their production life cycles.

There is a different story in Allegheny County, which has a surprising high per well yield for a county in the southwestern part of the state.  Here, all of the wells on the report were drilled between 2008 and 2013, and are therefore in the most productive part of the well’s life cycle.  Only the most recent of these wells is listed as not being in production.

Per well production during the last half of 2013 for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania by year drilled.

Table 3: Per well production during last half of 2013 for PA unconventional wells by spud year

Generally speaking, the further back a well was originally drilled, the less gas it will produce (see Table 3). At first glance, it might be surprising to note that the wells drilled in 2012 produced more gas than those drilled in 2013, however, as the data period is for the last half of 2013, there were a number of wells drilled that year that were not in production for the entire data cycle.

In addition to gas, there were 1,649,699 barrels of condensate and 182,636 barrels of oil produced by unconventional wells in Pennsylvania during the six month period. The vast majority of both of these resources were extracted from Washington County, in the southwestern part of the state.  540 wells reported condensate production, while 12 wells reported oil.

Waste

There are eight types of waste detailed in the Pennsylvania data, including:

  • Basic Sediment (Barrels) – Impurities that accompany the desired product
  • Drill Cuttings (Tons) – Broken bits of rock produced during the drilling process
  • Flowback Fracturing Sand (Tons) – Sand used as proppants during hydraulic fracturing that return to the surface
  • Fracing Fluid Waste (Barrels) – Fluid pumped into the well for hydraulic fracturing that returns to the surface.  This includes chemicals that were added to the well.
  • Produced Fluid (Barrels) – Naturally occurring brines encountered during drilling that contain various contaminants, which are often toxic or radioactive
  • Servicing Fluid (Barrels) – Various other fluids used in the drilling process
  • Spent Lubricant (Barrels) – Oils used in engines as lubricants
Method of disposing of waste generated from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania from July to December 2013.

Table 4: Method of disposing of waste generated from unconventional wells in PA from July to December 2013

Solid and liquid waste disposal for the top 20 producers of unconventional liquid waste in Pennsylvania during the last half of 2013.

Table 5: Solid & liquid waste disposal for top 20 producers of PA unconventional liquid waste during last half of 2013

This table shows solid and liquid waste totals for the ten counties that produced the most liquid waste over the six month period.

Table 6: Solid & liquid waste totals for the 10 counties that produced the most liquid waste over the 6 month period

There are numerous methods for disposing of drilling waste in Pennsylvania (see Table 4). Some of the categories include recycling for future use, others are merely designated as stored temporarily, and others are disposed or treated at a designated facility.  One of the bright points of the state’s waste data is that it includes the destination of that waste on a per well basis, which has allowed us to add receiving facilities to the map at the top of the page.

As eight data columns per table is a bit unwieldy, we have aggregated the types by whether they are solid (reported in tons) or liquid (reported in 42 gallon barrels).  Because solid waste is produced as a result of the drilling and fracturing phases, it isn’t surprising that the old Atlas wells produced no new solid waste (see Table 5).  Chevron Appalachia is more surprising, however, as the company spudded 46 wells in 2013, 12 of which were started during the last half of the year.  However, Chevron’s liquid waste totals were significant, so it is possible that some of their solid waste was reported, but miscategorized.

As with production, location matters when it comes to the generation of waste from these wells. But while the largest gas producing counties were led by three counties in the northeast, liquid waste production is most prolific in the southwest (see Table 6).

Table 7: PA Unconventional operators with the most wells that produced gas, oil, and/or condensate, but no amount of waste.  The column on the right shows total number of wells that are indicated as producing, for that same operator, regardless of waste production.

Table 7: PA unconventional operators with the most wells that produced gas, oil, and/or condensate, but no amount of waste.

Finally, we will take a look at the 359 wells that are indicated as in production, yet were not represented on the waste report as of March 6th.  These remarkable wells are run by 38 different operators, but some companies are luckier with the waste-free wells than their rivals.  As there was a six-way tie for 10th place among these operators, as sorted by the number or wells that produce gas, condensate, or oil but not waste, we can take a look at the top 15 operators in this category (see Table 7). Of note, gas quantity only includes production from these wells. Column on the right shows total number of wells that are indicated as producing, for that same operator, regardless of waste production.

114 of Southwestern Energy’s 172 producing wells were not represented on the waste report as of March 6th, representing just under two thirds of the total.  In terms of the number of waste-free wells, Atlas was second, with 55.  As for the highest percentage, Dominon, Hunt, and Texas Keystone all managed to avoid producing any waste at all for each of their seven respective producing wells, according to this self-reported data.