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Report: U.S. oil and natural gas production rising despite drop in number of wells |

Report: U.S. oil and natural gas production rising despite drop in number of wells

A pond below a drilling rig used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale near Houston in Washington County.

U.S. crude oil and natural gas production grew in 2017 despite the decline in number of wells, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration .

The total number of wells producing crude oil and natural gas in the United States fell from 1.039 million in 2014 to 991,000 in 2017 — a decline that reflects advances in technology and drilling techniques, according to the EIA’s updated U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Wells by Production Rate report.

Wells classified as nonhorizontal in the report decreased from 940,000 in 2014 to 864,000 in 2017.

Horizontal wells are relatively less common, but they are growing as a share of the total: The 99,000 horizontal wells drilled in 2014 accounted for 10 percent of total wells drilled, while the 127,000 horizontal wells drilled in 2017 accounted for 13 percent of the total, the report said.

Although horizontal wells are more expensive to drill than vertical wells, they contact more reservoir rock and, therefore, produce greater volumes, the EIA said. Only 1 percent of vertical wells produced at least 100 barrels per day of crude oil in 2017, but 30 percent of horizontal wells produced at least 100 barrels per day.

As these relatively prolific horizontal wells became more common, production growth continued even as the well count fell, the EIA said.

Even with fewer wells, U.S. oil production grew from 8.7 million barrels per day in 2014 to 9.3 million barrels per day in 2017. During that same period, U.S. natural gas gross withdrawals increased from about 78.7 billion cubic feet per day to 83.4 billion cubic feet per day.

Since 2017, crude oil and natural gas production has continued to grow, most recently measured at 11.3 million barrels per day and 85.2 billion cubic feet per day in August 2018, respectively.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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