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Accelerating Activity in the Marcellus Shale: An Update on Wells Drilled and Permitted

Posted: May 16, 2010

Recent figures taken from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website show activity in the Marcellus Shale play has increased dramatically in 2009, and appears to be accelerating in the first four months of 2010.

By Kathy Brasier and Melissa Ward

In some parts of the state, the activity related to Marcellus Shale development seems unbelievable. The amount of traffic and the number of drill rigs present in some communities was unimaginable just a year ago. As they say though, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet.’

Recent figures taken from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s website show activity in the Marcellus Shale play has increased dramatically in 2009, and appears to be accelerating in the first four months of 2010. 

In fact, the number of wells drilled and permitted from January through April of this year exceeds the total number of wells drilled and permitted in all of 2008. The totals are summarized in Figure 1. The number of Marcellus wells drilled in Pennsylvania was 196 in 2008, 763 in 2009, and 280 so far in the first four months of 2010. The total number of wells permitted in 2008 was 519, 1985 in 2009, and 584 so far in 2010.

Figure 1:  Total Marcellus Wells Across Pennsylvania (As reported by PA DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management)

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Monthly averages also indicate this acceleration of activity, as illustrated in Figure 2. The number of permits and drilled wells per month are 4.4 times higher in the first four months of 2010 than when the DEP began recording Marcellus Shale activity in 2008. Across Pennsylvania’s Marcellus region, the monthly average number of wells drilled was 16.3 in 2008, 63.6 in 2009, and 70.0 so far in 2010. The monthly average number of permits issued in 2008 was 43.3, 165.4 in 2009, and 146.0 so far in 2010. 

Figure 2: Monthly Averages of Marcellus Wells Across Pennsylvania (As calculated from totals reported by PA DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management)

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The primary areas of activity also appear to be shifting between counties. Table 1 summarizes the monthly average number of the permitted and drilled wells for the top 5 counties from 2008 through April, 2010.

Table 1: Monthly Averages of Number of Wells Drilled and Permitted in the Top 5 Counties in the Marcellus Play (As calculated from totals reported by PA DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management)

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Washington County, the site of the first producing Marcellus well, remains an active area across all three years, but other counties have moved up the list. The most notable counties are Bradford and Tioga, as they moved to the top of the list in 2009 and 2010 in the number of wells drilled, and top 3 in the number of permits issued. The number of permits also suggests the areas of likely future activity, so Bradford, Susquehanna, and Tioga Counties are likely ‘hot spots’ for the next couple years.

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Although there are concentrated areas of activity in southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania, DEP maps for both 2009 and early 2010 show a number of wells permitted and drilled all across Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region. This, along with recent industry reports, suggest that the activity will continue to increase and spread across the state over the next few years.