Charting Horizontal Wells’ Production Impact

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Bradford County drilling rig

How has horizontal drilling changed Pennsylvania’s energy landscape? New graphics from the federal Energy Information Administration provide a clear answer.

Drillers have been extracting natural gas from below Pennsylvania for decades. But  in 2007, a major change started taking place: instead of drilling wells straight into the ground, energy extractors began drilling horizontally. That’s because  they were running their bits through the narrow – but gas-packed – Marcellus Shale formation.

Just a small sliver of the new wells drilled in Pennsylvania were horizontal in 2007. That percentage gradually expanded: by 2010, more than half of new wells were drilling sideways, and by 2011, horizontal wells made up more than three quarters of new sites:

Energy Information Administration

New wells drilled in Pennsylvania: 2005-2011

Horizontal wells produce much more gas than their vertical counterparts. The following chart shows Pennsylvania’s daily

gas production has skyrocketed to nearly 3,500 million cubic feet a day.The number of new wells, shown above, has stayed relatively steady, at 2,000 to 2,500 a year. But as horizontal wells replace vertical wells, more and more gas is being extracted.


Pennsylvania's Natural Gas Production: 2005-2011

The EIA even put together a time-lapse video showing how horizontal wells have come to dominate Pennsylvania’s energy landscape. Watch how more and more horizontal wells start popping up, beginning in early 2008.



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