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July 20, 2011

Natural gas stripper wells accounted for over 11% of U.S. natural gas production in 2009

graph of Natural gas 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 natural gas stripper wells; yesterday's Today in Energy focused on oil stripper wells.

Individual natural gas stripper wells produce no more than about 90 thousand cubic feet of natural gas-equivalent per day over a twelve-month period (some wells also produce natural gas liquids), but because there are so many (nearly 340,000) they collectively account for a significant portion the Nation's total natural gas production—2,912 billion cubic feet, or over 11% in 2009. As we noted in yesterday's Today in Energy, the contribution from oil stripper wells is higher; oil stripper wells accounted for over 16% of the country's oil production in 2009. Oil and natural gas stripper wells generally produce from reservoirs that are nearing the end of their commercial lives.

From 1994 to 2008, the number of producing natural gas stripper wells generally rose. With the exception of 2005, their share of total natural gas well production grew roughly proportionately through 2006, when their share flattened. This flattened share of total production from natural gas stripper wells is largely the result of major increases in shale gas production from high-volume horizontal wells. (In contrast, the number of oil stripper wells remained comparatively flat, as did their share of total oil well production until 2003, after which it rose steadily through 2008 reflecting production declines from non-stripper oil wells.)