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U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Wells by Production Rate

Annual release:  October 29, 2018  |  Next release: December 2019  


One way of developing deeper insight into the rapid growth in U.S. oil and natural gas production over the past few years, driven by technological innovation in drilling and production, is to probe how U.S. oil and natural gas wells have changed. This report looks at the distribution of wells by size and technology to understand these trends.

U.S. oil production reached 10.04 million barrels per day (b/d) in December 2017 and 10.96 million b/d in July 2018, and U.S. natural gas gross withdrawals reached 96.97 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in December 2017 and 100.24 Bcf/d in July 2018. At the same time, the number of U.S. producing wells increased from 735,000 in 2000 to a high of 1,039,000 wells in 2014, and declined to 991,000 wells in 2017—likely because of lower oil prices and lags in data reporting for the most recent years (Figure 1). Technological change is reflected in how the share of horizontal wells over the past decade increased from 3% to 12% (2008-2017) (Figure 2). As a result, most U.S. oil and natural gas production comes from wells producing between 100 barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d) and 3,200 BOE/d (Figures 3 and 4, respectively). Interestingly, the share of U.S. oil and natural gas wells producing less than 15 BOE/d has remained surprisingly steady at 80% from 2000 through 2017 (Figure 1).

This report provides yearly estimates of the number of U.S. producing oil and natural gas wells, which are grouped into 26 production volume brackets ranging from less than 1 BOE/day to more than 12,800 BOE/day. Wells are designated as either oil or natural gas wells based on a gas-oil ratio (GOR) of 6,000 cubic feet (cf) of gas to 1 barrel (b) of oil (cf/b) for each year’s production. If the GOR is equal to or less than 6,000 cf/b then the well is classed as an oil well. If the GOR is greater than 6,000 cf/b then the well is classed as a natural gas well.

This report includes four sections:

  • an explanation of what a well is
  • methodology
  • frequently asked questions
  • suggestions for querying the downloadable Excel data file of individual state data

The distribution tables for the production rates of all U.S. oil and natural gas wells cover the years 2000 through 2017. Appendix B provides summary breakouts for the total United States, each state, the Federal Gulf of Mexico, and the Federal Pacific. The Appendix C spreadsheet can be used to generate figures for all regions and for additional variables.

The quality and completeness of the available data used to build the tables vary by state. The data originate from state administrative records of monthly well- or lease-level natural gas and liquid production. EIA receives the data from the commercial source Drillinginfo, which collects the data from the 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, and Tennessee—the last year of reported data is used to populate recent missing years to achieve the most complete U.S. total well counts. Data are not available for Illinois and Indiana.