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.


Regulatory Gaps for Train Spills?

By Matt Kelso, Manager of Data & Technology

On January 26, 2015, the Columbian, a paper in Southwestern Washington state, reported that an oil tanker spilled over 1,600 gallons of Bakken Crude in early November 2014.  The train spill was never cleaned up, because frankly, nobody knows where the spill occurred. This issue highlights weaknesses in the incident reporting protocol for trains, which appears to be less stringent than other modes of transporting crude.

Possible Train Spill Routes

To follow the most likely train route for this incident, start at the yellow flag, then follow the line west. The route forks at Spokane – the northernmost route would be the most efficient. View full screen map

While there is not a good place for an oil spill of this size, some places are worse than others – and some of the locations along this train route are pretty bad.  For example, the train passes through the southern edge of Glacier National Park in Montana, the scenic Columbia River, and the Spokane and Seattle metropolitan areas.

Significant Reporting Delay

The Columbian article mentions that railroads are required to report spills of hazardous materials in Washington State within 30 minutes of spills being noticed. In this case, however, the spill was apparently not noticed until the tanker car in question was no longer in BNSF custody. Therefore, relevant state and federal regulatory agencies were never made aware of the incident.

Both state and federal officials are now investigating, and we will follow up this post with more details when they are made available.