With a reach encompassing Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, the Appalachian Basin has seen significant growth since 2018. Recent monthly production set new record highs with an average of 32.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in December 2020 and 31.9 Bcf/d during the first half of the current year. Composed of the Utica and Marcellus shale formations, the Appalachian Basin made up 34% of all domestic dry natural gas production in the first half of 2021. This statistic propels the basin into the ranks as the third-largest natural gas producer in the entire world from January to December of this year.
Production highs reigned possible due in large part to the increase in pipeline takeaway capacity. This allowed Appalachian Basin natural gas to be supplied to other demand markets, with a significant emphasis on the Midwest. Between 2008 and 2020, takeaway capacity saw an increase from 4.5 Bcf/d to 24.5 Bcf/d. This helped to relieve congestion and led to increased natural gas prices on a wholesale basis.
The majority of the additional takeaway capacity occurred between 2014 and 2020. The majority of the 16.5 Bcf/d uptick was directed towards that Midwest region. While Appalachia to Canada has witnessed a rise in takeaway capacity, the Southeast increase is supporting domestic liquified natural gas growth.
Although it has experienced growth annually since 2014, the Northeast pipeline capacity has felt a slowdown in its increase in numbers. As a result, it has fallen behind regional production levels. Reigning as the largest natural gas pipeline under construction and targeted to be brought online in 2022, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will transport natural gas from the northwest quadrant of West Virginia to southern Virginia. This will extend Equitrans transmission system to the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company’s Zone 5 compressor station 165 in close proximity to Gretna, Virginia. It will be tasked with easing pipeline congestion and moving 2.0 Bcf/d of natural gas.
Comparing to Others
With recent data highlighting the Appalachian Basin and its increase in production, a true comparison can be made when analyzing the data from other formations and plays as well. Just studying production from August and September of 2021, Appalachia holds a significant lead when stacked up against other areas. Rankings are as follows:
- Appalachia: 34,366 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 34,386 Mcf/day in September 2021.
- Permian: 17,947 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 18,019 Mcf/day in September 2021.
- Haynesville: 13,413 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 13,537 Mcf/day in September 2021.
- Anadarko: 6,192 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 6,132 Mcf/day in September 2021.
- Eagle Ford: 5,971 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 5,965 Mcf/day in September 2021.
- Niobrara: 5,032 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 5,041 Mcf/day in September 2021.
- Bakken: 3,005 Mcf/day in August 2021 and 3,004 Mcf/day in September 2021.
Interesting conclusions can be derived from the data and further enhance the magnitude of these recently reported natural gas production increases. While Appalachia leads the pack with an increase of 20 million cubic feet/day in a month’s span, Haynesville is on its way back, taking third in the rankings. It too saw impressive returns in the one-month span with an increase of 124 million cubic feet/day.
Residing at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bakken ranked the lowest, with a loss of 1 million cubic feet/day between August and September of 2021. They were not alone; the Anadarko and Eagle Ford lost 66 million cubic feet/day between the two of them in September of this year.
The future for domestic natural gas production appears bright but will still need to deal with increasing regulations and continued contempt for the industry. Arriving at the favorable production levels safely and without incident should continue this favorable movement. As other formations and areas of interest can increase their own levels of production, the United States can forge ahead and lead the way in safe and efficient natural gas production.