Natural gas industry leader says years of production increase threatened

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the 10th straight year the output of West Virginia oil and natural gas production has risen, bringing record-high numbers, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Anne Blankenship

West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association (WVONGA) said numbers from the DEP’s Office of Oil and Natural Gas indicated production of natural gas in 2018 rose to 1.8 Tcf (trillion cubic feet) from 1.5 Tcf in 2017, a year-over-year increase of 17 percent.

Anne Blankenship, Executive Director of WVONGA attributed the consistent rise to a few things on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’

“The boom in the Marcellus Shale here that we are sitting on top of in West Virginia and more specifically the advances in technology that we make every year,” she said.

She added the drilling technology getting better and better equals an increase in production which turns to gas prices being lower.

But Blankenship said lower prices can be a double-edged sword because supply and demand in a low priced environment is not a good thing for a production company.

“Because the prices are so low, you do see drillers pull back,” she said. “You do see some decreases and we may see them next year. We may not see quite the increase as far as a percentage as we saw in 2018.”

WVONGA said oil production in West Virginia grew nearly 60 percent, from 7.5 million barrels in 2017 to 12 million barrels in 2018. This is the largest amount of oil produced since 1900 when the state produced 16 million barrels.

Blankenship also said that raising production results benefits all West Virginias because of the higher severance and property taxes. Those taxes go directly back into the state for projects on roads, education and more.

She said that natural gas is clean, affordable energy for West Virginia that must be taken advantage of.

“A disadvantage to the natural gas industry is that we have that mindset in West Virginia still that energy should be produced from coal,” Blankenship said. “We really need to be using all of our resources here. Right now, natural gas just makes more sense.”

Blankenship also stated how West Virginia needs to start taking advantage of its own natural gas uses and develop more natural gas-powered generations.

“You look at Pennsylvania, also sitting on top of Marcellus Shale, also producing natural gas, they have 50 natural gas-fired power generation facilities. We have two that we are trying to get up and running.

“We are just no taking advantage of that opportunity. It just makes sense to keep it here and use it here and to create clean, affordable energy for this state and surrounding states that need it.”

More numbers from the WVONGA include Doddridge County being the state’s most prolific natural gas producer at 434 Bcf (billion cubic feet). Production increased 53 Bcf over 2017 levels, growing by 14 percent year-over-year.

After Doddridge, the top ten counties in the state for natural gas production use is Tyler (272 Bcf); Ritchie (200 Bcf); Wetzel (198 Bcf); Marshall (163 Bcf); Harrison (123 Bcf); Ohio (71 Bcf); Monongalia (66 Bcf); Taylor (37 Bcf) and, Marion (35 Bcf).

Marshall County is the state’s largest oil-producing county, according to WVONGA, as it grew 116 percent year-over-year, rising from 1,347,636 barrels in 2017 to 2,914,894 barrels in 2018.

After Marshall, the top ten counties in the state for oil production is Ohio (2,362,026 barrels); Brooke (2,063,152 barrels); Tyler (1,399,594 barrels); Doddridge (1,104,430 barrels); Ritchie (924,024 barrels); Wetzel (640,790 barrels); Clay (92,594 barrels); Lincoln (87,025 barrels); and, Roane (78,423 barrels).

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