Natural gas production in Pennsylvania increased while new well drilling decreased in 2019, according to the 2019 Oil and Gas Annual Report released Monday by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. More than 6 billion mcf (one thousand cubic feet) of natural gas was produced, continuing an upward trend from previous years, the report said.

 Other details from the annual report include: 1,705 drilling permits were issued; 1,475 unconventional and 230 conventional; there were 787 wells drilled. DEP conducted 35,324 inspections and found 5,496 violations, collecting $4.1 million in fines and penalties in 2019. 

“We are remaining vigilant in our oversight of the industry and bringing enforcement actions against companies that violate the laws and regulations of Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. 

DEP continues to identify and plug orphan and abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, many of which predate regulatory oversight – a result of Pennsylvania’s 160-year history of oil and gas development. DEP estimates that there may be as many 200,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the state, which can leak methane into the air and possibly contaminate groundwater or surface water. 

“We know there are thousands of old, abandoned wells in Pennsylvania, but we don’t know how to quantify the threat these wells pose to our environment, especially from a climate change angle,” McDonnell said. “This research will help us put that into perspective and help guide how to prioritize well-plugging in the future.”

— RICK DANDES

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