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Regional gas production triples in two years

WHEELING, W.Va. — The Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas fields continue sizzling in the Northern Panhandle, as West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey statistics show drillers pumped nearly three times as much natural gas in the region during 2014 compared to 2012.

Once the Dominion Resources Cove Point liquefied natural gas export facility opens in Maryland – and the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the EQT Corp. Mountain Valley Pipeline systems open – production numbers across Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia should increase again, according to West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association Executive Director Corky Demarco.

“Over those couple of years, we added a bunch of pipelines. There were wells drilled, but because of the lack of pipelines, we weren’t getting the gas to market,” Demarco said. “Now, with more pipelines, we can get it where it needs to go.”

In 2011, Ohio County’s natural gas production, via three traditional vertical wells, came in at 84,000 cubic feet. The total jumped to 2.7 billion cubic feet in 2012, according to the survey. However, by 2014, the Ohio County total skyrocketed to 33.5 billion cubic feet.

All active horizontal shale wells in Ohio County are now operated by Southwestern Energy Co., after that firm paid $5 billion to acquire Chesapeake Energy’s West Virginia assets last year.

A similar boom is taking place in the three West Virginia counties south of Ohio – Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler. In Wetzel County, for example, where natural gas production has been strong for several years, energy companies extracted 63.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2012. By the end of last year, the total had reached 165.1 billion cubic feet.

One billion cubic feet can power 559 round trips to the moon, or 85,000 road trips across the country, according to Cabot Oil and Gas.

In addition to Southwestern, drillers featuring lucrative wells in Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties include Chevron, Magnum Hunter, Antero Resources, Gastar Exploration, Stone Energy, American Energy Partners, HG Energy, Noble Energy, Consol Energy, and others.

Brooke County’s production also has taken a steep upward trajectory. From 2009-11, the county produced no natural gas. In 2012, the total was 1.4 million cubic feet. Last year, that rose to 12.5 billion cubic feet.

Although Mountain State natural gas yields continue increasing, Demarco said this will likely “level off” soon. According to the New York Mercantile Exchange, the price for a 1,000-cubic-foot unit of natural gas is now around $2.80. This is less than half the selling price for the same unit in March 2014.

“It’s an issue of supply and demand. Right now, there is an oversupply, particularly in the Appalachian Basin,” Demarco said of the region home to both the Marcellus and Utica plays. “But with the downturn in price, we can catch up with some of the pipeline construction.”

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