Texas may be the biggest natural gas producer in the United States, but Pennsylvania is gaining ground. The Keystone State surpassed Louisiana in 2013 as the number two US gas producer. Continued growth in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays has kept Pennsylvania in second place ever since, with some analysts speculating whether it might overtake Texas as the nation’s largest producer of natural gas. Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that in the last 10 years, Pennsylvania’s gas output has grown 32-fold and that it is now responsible for 6 Tcf (1.6 x 1011 m3) of the entire nation’s 11.6 Tcf (3.2 x 1011 m3) of new gas supply.
Pennsylvania produced more than 18 Bcfd (509 x 106 m3/d) of gas in 2018, while Texas produced 22 Bcfd (622 x 106 m3/d). According to EIA data, Pennsylvania now yields over 20% of all US gas, with continued growth forecast for the foreseeable future.
Data like this leads to the question, is it possible for Pennsylvania to reach the number one gas producer spot?
A report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PDOEP) shows that the state’s total first-quarter 2019 natural gas production was 1655.4 Bcf (46.8 x 109 m3). Compared to the first quarter of 2018, total production grew by 14.7%. From 2011 to 2018, Pennsylvania’s production volume increased at an average rate of 28.6% per year. The same PDOEP report shows that Texas had a production growth rate average of 0.3% from 2016 to 2018, while Pennsylvania’s production growth averaged 8.9% during the same period.
Well count in Pennsylvania is on the rise. The number of producing wells in 2018 was 8738, which is 10.7% higher than 2017. From 2011 to 2018, the number of producing wells grew at an average rate of 25.6% per year. Average production per well in 2018 was 1666 MMcf (47.1 x 106 m3), an increase of 30.7% over 2017. The cumulative increase of average production from 2011 to 2018 was 147.9% (13.8% per year).
With so much supply in its own backyard, Pennsylvania has been turning more to natural gas to meet its own energy demand. Natural gas is now responsible for 35% of Pennsylvania’s power generation. EIA data shows that between 2016 and 2018, Pennsylvania announced plans for 16 new gas plants, which will account for more than 14,000 MW of power when all is said and done. In addition to meeting its own energy needs, new major infrastructure projects like the Rockies Express Zone 3 Expansion and the Algonquin Incremental Market Pipeline increase export capacity, allowing more Pennsylvania gas to reach markets beyond its borders, in turn, giving the Lone Star State a run for its money.
While some argue that Texas is in no danger of being surpassed as the nation’s top natural gas producer due to its sheer size alone, it’s worth noting that the Marcellus Shale area of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia produces more natural gas than Texas. In fact, EIA data show the Appalachian Region states produced more natural gas than the Permian, Eagle Ford, and Haynesville regions combined. Continued infrastructure investment and an abundance of gas in the region might very well result in Pennsylvania reaching the top of the gas production leader board one day.
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