Domestic natural gas production surged in 2011 to 28.48 Tcf, a 1.66 Tcf (6.2%) increase compared to 26.82 Tcf in 2010, and it was production from the nation’s shale plays that gave the total its biggest boost, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Gross withdrawals from gas wells was 12.29 Tcf for the year, down from 13.25 Tcf in 2010, and production from coalbed methane wells also declined, to 1.78 Tcf in 2011 from 1.92 Tcf in 2010, according to EIA’s Natural Gas Annual report. Oil well production increased slightly to 5.91 Tcf from 5.83 Tcf a year before, but it was shale gas wells that provided the biggest boost, increasing to 8.50 Tcf in 2011 from 5.82 Tcf in 2010.

The overall figure was marginally lower than the 28.58 Tcf EIA tallied in its “Annual Energy Review 2011” report last year (see Shale Daily, Sept. 28, 2012).

Total consumption in 2011 was 24.38 Tcf, up just 1.2% from 24.09 Tcf in 2010, EIA said. The number of natural gas customers was also almost flat, with the number of residential customers (65.9 million in 2011) and commercial (5.3 million) each increasing less than 1% compared to 2010, and the number of industrial customers falling to 189,097 in 2011 from 192,730 the year before.

And most customers paid less for natural gas in 2011, EIA said. Residential customers paid an average of $11.03/Mcf in 2011, down from $11.39; commercial customers paid $8.92 (down from $9.47); industrials, $5.11 (down from $5.49); and power generators, $4.89 (down from $5.27). Only the vehicle fuel sector experienced an increase, paying $7.29 in 2011, compared with $6.25 in 2010.

The number of producing wells in the country jumped to 514,637 in 2011 from 487,627 in 2010, according to EIA.

Last month, EIA said it expects total domestic marketed natural gas production to increase to 69.8 Bcf/d in 2013 from 69.2 Bcf/d in 2012, and to drop slightly to 69.5 Bcf/d in 2014 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 9). Growth in Lower 48 onshore production, driven largely by the Marcellus Shale and other shale plays, will continue through 2014, although it will be offset by Gulf of Mexico declines, EIA said.