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Today in Energy

July 19, 2011

Oil stripper wells accounted for over 16% of U.S. oil production in 2009

graph of Oil stripper wells count and share, as described in the article text

Marginal-volume stripper wells make an important contribution to U.S. oil and natural gas production. Today's article looks at oil stripper wells; tomorrow's Today in Energy will focus on natural gas stripper wells.

Individual oil stripper wells produce no more than 15 barrels of oil equivalent per day over a twelve-month period (some wells also produce natural gas), yet collectively account for a significant portion the Nation's oil production—over 16% in 2009. Their sheer number (over 300,000) allows oil stripper wells to make a major contribution to U.S. oil production.

The number of oil stripper wells has remained roughly constant since 1994. Their share of total oil production stayed fairly level through 2003. Since 2003, their production share has increased; while over the same period, the oil stripper well count rose less, increasing about 5%.

In the period of 2003 through 2009, this disproportionate increase in production share was more significant due not only to an overall increase in production from oil stripper wells, but also largely as a result of flagging production from non-stripper oil wells. During that period, the non-stripper oil well count fell by about 3% and production from non-stripper oil wells dropped nearly 15%.