Natural gas production in the US reached 78 billion cubic feet in 2015, with 67 percent coming from hydraulically fractured wells and the other 33 percent from traditional completion methods. At the turn of the millennium, a total of 26,000 wells were hydraulically fractured and provided the US 3.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas production per day. Fast-forward to 2015 and that 7 percent of total production from 2000 has now jumped to 53 billion cubic feet per day, spanning over 300,000 wells.
The majority of these increases have come from bountiful shale plays across the country. Based off of data from IHS Global Insight and DrillingInfo Inc., the EIA cites over 80 percent of the natural gas from hydraulically fractured wells as coming from lower 48 tight plays. Leading the charge has been the Marcellus and Utica formations in the Appalachian Basin, followed by the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Permian Basin formations. While productivity from some the southernmost formations has started to decline, reserves in the Marcellus and Utica are proving formidable, with increasing initial production rates due to better technology.
Despite the large percentage of hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, total production and rig counts are still feeling the sting of the continued oil glut. Natural gas rig counts are down to 86 active rigs, a drop since last week and a 61 percent drop compared to last year. Combined with active oil rigs, the official total rig count sits at 415, with 318 of those being horizontal or deviated wells. The majority of the hydraulically fractured natural gas production comes from horizontal wells, even with the low active rig counts.
There are many who are cautious when it comes to the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing. The EPA has provided several studies outlining the basics of hydraulic fracturing along with environmental, economic, and community implications. Regardless of public perception, most shale plays still remain offline due to the sustained energy surpluses and low commodity prices. As another 18 companies filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the past few months, it might be some time before anyone can predict the true role hydraulic fracturing will have in long term natural gas production.