From Trib Live

Pennsylvania had a record year for natural gas production in 2018, the state Department of Environmental Protection said on Wednesday.

Unconventional well operators produced 6.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in 2018 — an increase of .8 trillion cubic feet over 2017 and the largest volume of natural gas produced in Pennsylvania in a single year, according to DEP’s 2018 Oil & Gas Annual Report.

Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producer in the United States, after Texas.

Unconventional wells are those that access large reservoirs of underground natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The first unconventional natural gas well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 2004, according to DEP.

Since then, production levels have steadily risen, requiring more permitting and inspection activities from DEP.

DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said Wednesday that the agency’s internal restructuring and continued expansion of electronic tools has increased permitting and inspection efficiency, shortened waiting periods and improved oversight of natural gas producers.

“Gov. (Tom) Wolf and DEP have made permitting and inspection efficiency a priority — reducing overall permit backlog by more than 90% since 2016 and improving inspection efficiency while ensuring compliance with our environmental regulations,” McDonnell said.



According to the 2018 report, DEP:

  • Issued 1,868 unconventional well permits — 160 fewer than in 2017.
  • Conducted 36,873 compliance inspections at conventional and unconventional well sites — 585 more than in 2017.
  • Found 1,043 unconventional well violations — a 27% increase from 2017. (Conventional well violations declined.)
  • Collected $4.1 million in fines and penalties for noncompliance at oil and gas sites.

The report also noted that:

  • 917 oil and gas wells were drilled in Pennsylvania in 2018.
  • DEP has documented 12,164 orphan and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania.
  • About 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells remain unaccounted for.

The interactive, multimedia annual report offers several levels of data: the year in review; deeper detail and historical data; and educational overviews of drilling and the regulatory process statewide.

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