DEP: 2019 was a big year for natural gas production in Pa. This is how big | The Numbers Racket

A Marcellus shale gas-drilling site along PA Route 87, Lycoming County. Nicholas A. Tonelli | Flickr Commons

Last month, the state Department of Environmental Protection dropped the latest numbers on oil and natural gas production in the commonwealth. 

From its report, DEP found that Pennsylvania produced its largest volume of natural gas in a single year to-date in 2019, recording 6.8 trillion cubic of natural gas produced. 

Pennsylvania remains the second largest producer of natural gas in the country, behind Texas, the report noted. 

Quick-hit findings

In 2019, DEP reported that: 

  • 1,705 drilling permits were issued; 1,475 *unconventional and 230 conventional
  • There were 787 wells drilled; 615 *unconventional and 172 conventional
  • DEP conducted 35,324 inspections and found 5,496 violations
  • DEP collected $4.1 million in fines and penalties in 2019

*Note: In Pennsylvania, unconventional wells refer to a well that is or will use fracking to obtain the oil or gas due to the geological formations below.

Carnegie Mellon University has an interactive map to locate unconventional wells across Pennsylvania. 

Chart from Pa. DEP (Capital-Star Screen-Capture).

Fracking

DEP reports that 90 percent of produced fluids (Fluids that return to the surface after the hydraulic fracturing process) were recycled or reused in the production or fracking of other natural gas wells.

Produced fluids that are not able to be recycled, the report stated, are disposed of in Class II Underground Injection Control (UIC) disposal wells, which dispose of waste fluids. DEP reports that 8 percent of the produced fluids in 2019 were disposed of in this manner.

Pennsylvania currently has 11 active UIC disposal wells.

Wells

The first oil well opened in Pennsylvania more than 150 years ago in western Pennsylvania’s Crawford County. 

Where we are, where we’ve been: A look at Pennsylvania’s oil-rich history

Since then, DEP has been tasked with locating and plugging abandoned wells across the commonwealth. 

Disposal well locations (Capital-Star Screen Capture).

In its report, DEP estimates that there are approximately 200,000 undocumented orphaned/abandoned wells across the state. 

In 2019, the state agency reported that it located 11,953 orphaned/abandoned wells.

  •  8,534 Unplugged orphan/abandoned wells
  • 3,419 Plugged orphan/abandoned wells 
Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.