Technological innovation in drilling and completions has resulted in growth in U.S. oil and natural gas production both over the last decade and in the past year. 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.
In December 2021, U.S. oil production, which includes crude oil and condensate, reached 11.7 million barrels per day (b/d), and U.S. natural gas production (gross withdrawals) reached 120.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). U.S. oil production and natural gas production (gross withdrawals) both increased in 2022; oil production reached 12.1 million b/d, and natural gas production (gross withdrawals) reached 121.1 Bcf/d in December 2022.1 U.S. crude oil and natural gas production, along with well-level productivity for both fuels, increased in 2022, especially in the Permian region.
The number of producing wells in the United States reached a high of just over 1 million (1,031,256) wells in 2014 but declined to 919,246 wells by the end of 2021 and continued to decline in 2022 to 912,962 wells (Figure 1). The percentage share of horizontal wells during the past decade increased from 7% to 19% (2012–22), which illustrates the impact of technological change on well type (Figure 2). Since 2012, about half of U.S. oil and natural gas production came from wells that produced between 100 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d) and 3,200 BOE/d (Figure 3 and Figure 4). In terms of the number of wells, the share of U.S. oil and natural gas wells producing less than 15 BOE/d remained steady at about 80% from 2000 through 2021 and declined to 77% in 2022 (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 1 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, 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 2022. 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 fuels 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—Arizona, 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.