Living up to preliminary estimates earlier in the year calling for a 50-year high (see Shale Daily, Jan. 25), Colorado oil/natural gas officials released statistics showing oil production was up 22% last year, soaring past the 40 million bbl mark for the first time in a half-century at 47.9 million bbl.

In January, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) forecast oil production in excess of 40 million bbl, without the benefit of a full year’s worth of data. COGCC’s preliminary figures hit 41.7 million bbl with three more weeks left for operators to submit data to the state agency.

The fact that the final total approached the 50 million bbl mark did not surprise either state or industry officials. Oil output in 2011 was 39.1 million bbl.

COGCC was still designating the monthly totals for 2012 posted on its website as “preliminary” in reporting more than 8 million additional barrels of production last year compared to 2011.

The oil-rich Niobrara Shale formation north of Denver was cited as the major reason for the surge, according to state energy officials who were quoted in local news media reports.

For natural gas and coalbed methane production, 2012 statistics were essentially flat compared to the previous year. COGCC totals were 1.688 Tcf last year, compared with 1.697 Tcf in 2011. This was a change from the agency’s preliminary estimates earlier this year that predicted the gas and coalbed methane production might lag below 1.5 Tcf, a level that has been exceeded regularly since 2008.

In the end, a COGCC official said there was more gas associated with oil production than had previously been anticipated.