Combined conventional and unconventional natural gas production in West Virginia increased healthily again last year, which also marked the first time the Utica Shale contributed meaningfully to the state’s volumes.

Combined natural gas production went from 1.04 Tcf in 2014 to 1.3 Tcf last year, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) (see Shale Daily, March 9). According to an analysis of the data by the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey (WVGES), the Marcellus Shale accounted for most of those volumes, with operators reporting 1.1 Tcf from the formation. Marcellus production increased from 851.8 Bcf last year.

Industry and state officials expected more growth in 2015 despite the commodities downturn as wells drilled in 2014 came online, Utica volumes ramped-up and operators drilled longer laterals.

Combined oil production was up to 8.2 million bbl last year from 7.5 million bbl in 2014. That data, however, could be less telling as operators have continued to lump in natural gas liquids volumes with their oil reporting despite requirements from the WVDEP in 2013 that they start separating NGLs and oil. Separate NGL totals dropped from 4.7 million bbl in 2014 to 3.3 million bbl last year, according to the state’s data.

While the Utica Shale contributed slightly to 2014 production growth, it played a bigger factor last year as industry officials had expected. Utica liquids production, according to WVGES, which includes oil in those volumes, was 38,010 bbl. Utica gas production was 14.2 Bcf in 2015. It was in early 2014 that operators began delineating their Utica acreage in the state with the first tests completed later that year (see Shale Daily, March 26, 2014).

WVGES added that Marcellus liquids production reached 10.2 million bbl.

Antero Resources Corp. was the state’s largest gas producer, reporting 442.3 Bcf, followed by EQT Corp., which reported 175.4 Bcf and Southwestern Energy Co., which reported 111.3 Bcf, according to the WVGES analysis.

From 2008 to 2010, West Virginia production hovered around 260 Bcf annually, before operators appeared to hit their stride in 2011, sending annual production to nearly 400 Bcf. It’s climbed ever since. More growth is expected this year from some of the same factors that pushed up 2015 production before the effects of the downturn could show a flattening or a decline in 2017.

Producers submit their annual production data to the WVDEP each March and 2016 production totals won’t be released by WVDEP until later next year.