Southwest Pa. creates bulk of natural gas production growth statewide in 2015

Ethan Lott
Pittsburgh Business Times

While depressed natural gas prices stemmed the growth of exploration and drilling activity in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays during 2015, production growth in southwestern Pennsylvania outpaced the state as a whole and accounted for the bulk of the industry’s expansion statewide in 2015.

Business Times’ analysis of production reports from the state Department of Environmental Protection found that production growth in the 11-county southwestern Pennsylvania area accounted for 86 percent of the state’s overall production growth. Regional counties had 1.61 million mcf of production in 2015, up from 1.14 million in 2014. The gain regionally was 474.1 million mcf out of the overall 551.2 million mcf growth statewide between 2014 and 2015.

Statewide growth year-over-year was 13.5 percent compared to 31.2 percent growth in the prior period from 2013-2014. The 11-county Pittsburgh region saw production growth of 41.6 percent from 2014 to 2015.

In 2014, 28 percent of all shale production was in the Pittsburgh region. In 2015, 35 percent of production was in the Pittsburgh region. This means this region should see a larger share of 2015 impact fees than in 2014. However, the pool of money being split by municipalities will be diminished due to the depressed natural gas prices over the course of the year.

Nine of the 11 counties in the region saw increased production in 2015. Production in Lawrence County increased almost fourfold and Beaver County production more than doubled, for instance.

But those counties are small players compared to the regional behemoths Washington and Greene counties, which account for 74 percent of the region’s production and 25 percent statewide. Washington County, the county with the highest production, grew 47.5 percent, with more than 663.2 million mcf of natural gas production in 2015 and Greene County grew 47.6 percent to 532.4 million mcf in 2015. Butler County production was up 53.4 percent to 142.2 million mcf, which makes it the third county in the region to top 100 million mcf.

Statewide, nine counties topped 100 million mcf in production. Susquehanna County is tops, with 1.15 trillion mcf in 2015 production, about one-quarter of the state’s. Bradford County is No. 2 with about 726.5 million mcf. Washington and Greene counties are Nos. 3 and 4 respectively, followed by Lycoming (454.2 million mcf), Wyoming (264.7 million mcf), Tioga (198.9 million mcf), Butler and Sullivan (106.5 million mcf).

Not surprisingly, the busiest municipalities in the region were all located in Greene and Washington Counties. Fifteen municipalities regionally topped 25 million mcf in production. Center Township in Greene County led all municipalities regionally with 123.9 million mcf, almost as much as all of Butler County. Washington Township in Greene County, with 105.7 million mcf also topped the 100 million mark. The rest of the top 10 producing townships in the region were: Morris (Washington County), Morgan (Greene), Amwell (Washington), Somerset (Washington), Morris (Greene), North Bethlehem (Washington), West Finley (Washington) and Jackson (Greene).

Statewide, the four municipalities with the highest production were all in Susquehanna County: New Milford (167.1 million mcf), Auburn (165.4 million), Springdale (154.4 million) and Brooklyn (135.9 million). Center Township in Greene County was fifth and Washington Township seventh statewide.