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Production from Shale Plays Will Continue Edging Higher in February, EIA Says

Natural gas and oil production from wells in six domestic shale plays/basins will continue to edge higher in February, buoyed in large part by the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Bakken, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Total gas production from the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Marcellus, Niobrara and Permian in January will be an estimated 36.82 Bcf/d, and oil production will be an estimated 4,008,000 b/d, EIA said in a Drilling Productivity Report issued Tuesday. Those numbers will be higher in February -- 37.20 Bcf/d of natural gas and 4,078,000 b/d of oil -- EIA said.

On the natural gas side of the equation, EIA expects declining production next month in both the Haynesville (6.26 Bcf/d in February, compared with 6.38 Bcf/d in January) and Niobrara (4.29 Bcf/d, compared with 4.33 Bcf/d in January). But those declines will be outweighed by increases in the Marcellus (14.23 Bcf/d, compared with 13.84 Bcf/d in January), Eagle Ford (6.22 Bcf/d, compared with 6.11 Bcf/d) and Bakken (1.14 Bcf/d, compared with 1.12 Bcf/d). Permian production will remain almost unchanged at 5.06 Bcf/d, EIA said.

Almost all of the shale plays will see slightly higher oil production in February, according to EIA's estimates. The agency expects 1.285 million b/d out of the Eagle Ford in February (a 34,000 b/d increase compared with January) and 1.036 million b/d from the Bakken (a 25,000 b/d increase), with only minor upticks in the Marcellus, Niobrara and Permian. Haynesville oil production is forecast to remain steady at 52,000 b/d.

Natural gas production from new rigs in the Niobrara is expected to slip marginally, and oil production from new rigs in the Haynesville to stay flat in February, but both gas and oil production from new equipment in the other plays will edge up slightly, according to the report. Gas production per rig in the Marcellus, which first surpassed 6.00 MMcf/d in December, is expected to reach 6.30 MMcf/d in February, and Haynesville rigs have passed the 5.00 MMcf/d milestone.

With more than half of newly-drilled wells now producing both oil and natural gas, it is also no longer sufficient to categorize rigs as either oil-directed or gas-directed, according to EIA. The DPR does not distinguish between oil-directed and gas-directed rigs; it counts all active rigs because once a well is completed, it may produce both oil and gas.

EIA recently reported that U.S. natural gas production, which had seen an uncharacteristic stumble in September, recovered in October, with the shale-rich "Other States" category helping to push the national total higher (see Shale Daily, Jan. 8). Total U.S. natural gas production in October was 83.03 Bcf/d, the highest national total on record, according to EIA data. The U.S. total got a boost from the Other States category, which includes Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, but not Texas or Louisiana, homes to the Eagle Ford, Barnett and Haynesville shales. Production in the category was 27.29 Bcf/d in October, up from 26.63 Bcf/d in September and 23.57 Bcf/d in October 2012.

Domestic crude oil production increased by 1.0 million b/d in 2013, EIA said, reaching its highest level in 24 years and also eclipsing a worldwide combined increase in production (see Shale Daily, Jan. 10). The agency said it was the largest observed annual increase in production in U.S. history.

In a separate report also released Tuesday, EIA said both Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Europe and the United States experienced relatively flat natural gas production from 1995 to 2005. Natural gas consumption rose steadily in Europe over that period, but it was flat in the United States as rising use of natural gas for power generation was offset by declining use of gas in industry.

But since then, significant gas production growth has outpaced rising consumption in the United States, reducing net imports by 58% between 2005 and 2012. Production and consumption in OECD Europe during the same period fell moderately, reducing Europe's net imports by only 6%.

EIA began publication of its monthly DPR in October to provide region-specific insights into rig efficiency, new well productivity, decline rates at previously existing wells, and overall production trends (see Shale Daily, Oct. 22, 2013). The six plays/regions covered by the report combined accounted for about 90% of U.S. oil production growth and nearly all U.S. natural gas production growth during 2011-2012, according to EIA data.

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