The numbers speak loudly on Pennsylvania’s emerging role as a world leader in natural gas production. Statistics that will be released in early 2015 are expected to confirm that the Keystone State is producing enough gas to satisfy about 16 percent of annual demand for the United States.
Where does Potter County stand in the picture? Entering 2015, God’s Country is far on the periphery of the gas-drilling boom. That could change in the next few years, as energy companies have been laying the groundwork for what could be a frenzy of activity. Much of it is based on encouraging returns they’ve reported on deep drilling into a formation known as Utica Shale. While Marcellus Shale has been grabbing the headlines and fueling much of Pennsylvania’s rapid production growth, the Utica layer underlying Marcellus — upwards of three miles below ground — might be even more production in Potter and Tioga counties.
Entering the second half of 2014, six counties had established themselves as the heavyweights in active shale gas wells: Bradford, 1,071; Washington, 1,014; Susquehanna, 957; Lycoming, 788; Greene, 729; and Tioga, 640.
In the second tier were Butler, 277; Westmoreland, 247; Fayette, 241; Wyoming, 214. Far down on the list are McKean, 60; Elk, 46; Potter, 38; and Cameron, 32.
Statewide, if companies continue the current pace, Pennsylvania is on track to produce 4 trillion cubic feet this year. The production figures keep surpassing expectations, even among people who closely watch the industry. “The drilling activity is going down, but we’re seeing a lot more well completions and the pipeline capacity is increasing,” says Matt Henderson of Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. “It’s hard to say when it’s going to stop.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration also tracks gas production in the Marcellus Shale region, which includes Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “As far as individual formations go, it’s producing the most natural gas in the United States,” says EIA research analyst Sam Gorgen. “We haven’t seen any monthly declines recently, so you get that record production every month.”
Companies with the most active shale gas wells in Pennsylvania are: Range Resources, 865; Chesapeake, 453; Swepi LP, 443; Cabot, 434; EQT, 394; Chevron, 355; Anadarko, 338; Southwestern, 316; CNX, 276.