Technological innovation in drilling and completions has recently caused rapid growth in U.S. oil and natural gas production. Exploring how U.S. oil and natural gas wells have changed provides deeper insight into this rapid growth. In this report, we present data on the distribution of wells by size and technology and analyze emerging trends.
U.S. oil production, which includes crude oil and condensate, reached 11.2 million barrels per day (b/d) in December 2020, and U.S. natural gas production (gross withdrawals) reached 112.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in December 2020. U.S. oil production and natural gas production (gross withdrawals) both increased in 2021; oil production reached 11.6 million b/d, and natural gas natural gas production (gross withdrawals) reached 118.7 Bcf/d in December 2021.1 U.S. crude oil and natural gas production increased in 2021 because of higher demand and increased rig counts.
The number of producing wells in the United States reached a high of just over 1 million (1,031,183) wells in 2014 and declined to just under 1 million (916,934) wells in 2021—mostly because of lower oil prices and less rig activity (Figure 1). The increase in the share of horizontal wells during the past decade from 5.4% to 18.1% (2011–21) shows the impact of technological change on well type (Figure 2). Since 2013, more than half of U.S. oil (Figure 3) and natural gas (Figure 4) production comes from wells that produce between 100 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d) and 3,200 BOE/d. In terms the number of wells, the share of U.S. oil and natural gas wells producing less than 15 BOE/d has remained steady at about 80% from 2000 through 2021 (Figure 1).
This report provides yearly estimates of producing oil and natural gas wells in the United States, which are grouped according to volume in one of 22 production volume brackets that range from less than 1 BOE/d to more than 12,800 BOE/d. We designate wells as either oil or natural gas wells based on a gas-oil ratio (GOR) of 6,000 cubic feet of natural gas to 1 cubic foot per barrel (cf/b) of oil for each year’s production. If the GOR is equal to or less than 6,000 cf/b, then we classify the well as an oil well. If the GOR is greater than 6,000 cf/b, we classify the well as a natural gas well.
The distribution tables for the production rates of all U.S. oil and natural gas wells range from calendar years 2000 through 2021. Appendix B provides summary breakouts for the total United States, each state, the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico, and the Federal Offshore Pacific. You can use the Appendix C spreadsheet to generate figures for all regions and for additional variables.
The quality and completeness of the available data we used to build the tables varies by state. The data originate from state administrative records of monthly well- or lease-level natural gas and liquid fuel production. We receive the data from the commercial source Enverus, which collects the data from various state agencies. Some state agencies do not make well-production data available until years after production occurs, and others have never made well-production data available. For the late-reporting states—Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Tennessee—we use the last year of reported data to populate recent missing years to achieve the most complete U.S. total well counts. Data are not available for Illinois and Indiana. Appendix A shows the reporting status for each state and year covered in the report and the availability of completion, well, and lease data by state.
1U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production, November 8, 2022.