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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Table 4: Method of disposing of waste generated from unconventional wells in PA from July to December 2013
Table 5: Solid & liquid waste disposal for top 20 producers of PA unconventional liquid waste during last half of 2013
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.
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.