Monday, April 2, 2012

Updated: Marcellus Well Starts Down 25%; Violations Down 30%;

Down, down goes the price of natural gas, hitting $1.95 for a thousand cubic feet on Friday, March 30 at the Henry Hub, as demand is swamped by supply. Those rock bottom gas prices are reducing the number of drilling rigs and gas well starts in Pennsylvania. In the first two months of 2012, well starts declined from 342 to 269 or approximately 25%, according to the folks at

While well starts fell, MarcellusGas.Org reports that permit approvals actually increased 6% in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. But an excellent comment to this posting says permits too have fallen, raising questions about the comparative period permit data offered by MarcellusGas.Org.

Putting aside permit trends, total permits approved are listed at 9,758 and total number of wells drilled is listed as 5,508.

 The number of violations is also down significantly--30% decline in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011.  Total violations in 2010 were approximately 1200 and then 1100 in 2011.  Were a 30% decline from 2011 totals be sustained for the full 2012 year, total violations would fall below 800.

What is the cause of the sharp decrease in violations in the first quarter of 2012?  While improved company performance or changes in enforcement could be factors, probably the decrease in operating drilling rigs and the number of well starts is the prime explanation, but the trend bears watching.  The 30% decline in violations tracks closely the 25% drop in well starts and 15% decline in drilling rigs operating in Pennsylvania. Less business activity should reduce the number of violations, all other factors being equal.


  1. Less activity equals less violations. Zero activity will equal no violations. That's what I'd like to see next.

  2. Please provide the total number of violations in you calculation for 2012 as there is no way to substantiate your information.

    Also how many wells were drilled in 2010, 2011 and the first quarter 2012.

    Also are the violations reported only on new wells or on a combination of new and existing wells?

    1. The data is at It is worth being a member to get it. They take data from DEP sources and a few others and do a great job collating it and presenting it.

      Violations are for all wells, new and old. It looks like 269 wells were started/drilled in the first two months of 2012.

  3. Hi John, I know these are not your numbers, but since it is in your title, I believe their number about permits is misleading if accurate.

    New permits issued during 2012 have decreased.

    For Jan, Feb and March 2011, # 863 Marcellus permits were issued. Same period 2012, # 779 Marcellus permits were issued. (-9.7 %)

    For Oct, Nov and December of 2011 (Last Quarter of 2011) 993 permits were issued. # 779 this quarter(-21.5 %)

    These numbers include "drill deeper" modifications to existing permits.