Utica Shale natural gas production increased again last year to 1.7 Tcf, up about 25% from 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

Unconventional production in the state reached its highest point in 4Q2017 at 503 Bcf, an increase of nearly 40% from the year-ago period and up about 9% from 3Q2017.

ODNR’s fourth quarter report listed 1,897 horizontal shale wells, 1,869 of which reported oil and natural gas production during the period. The average amount of oil produced was 2,244 bbl and the average amount of gas produced was 269.2 MMcf. Ohio law does not require separate reporting of natural gas liquids or condensate; totals included those volumes.

Fourth quarter Utica oil production was 4.2 million bbl, about 16% higher from 3.6 million bbl reported in the year-ago period. While oil volumes slowly crept back up for sequential increases last year, year/year oil volumes fell again, going from about 18 million bbl in 2016 to 16.4 million bbl in 2017.

It was the second straight annual decline, albeit less sharp than in 2016 when volumes dropped from a shale era peak of 23 million bbl produced in 2015.

ODNR’s Rick Simmers, chief of the oil and gas division, said Thursday during a presentation at the Ohio Oil and Gas Association’s winter meeting in Columbus that the last two years of oil declines were not unexpected given the steep decline in prices that began in 2014.

“A lot of the companies that had the option, based on their lease acreage, tried to move to a gas window, and where they could, a dry gas window,” he said. “We saw that trend through our permitting, and we saw that trend in the drilling activity that we also go out and oversee.

“We projected that this drop in oil production was going to happen,” he added. “While the companies are drilling the gas, or the dry gas areas, I think this trend will continue unless prices gain pretty significantly.”

To date, Ohio has permitted 2,767 Utica wells, of which 2,276 have been drilled. At this time last year, the state had permitted 2,427 Utica wells, of which 1,931 had been drilled.