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Natural gas continued to decline in 2023 as oil production climbs

An oil and gas drilling rig in Wyoming BLM’s High Desert District. (Wyoming BLM/FlickrCC)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — While natural gas production continued its downward trend in 2023, oil production was slightly above the previous year but remains below pre-pandemic levels, according to the Wyoming State Geological Survey. 

Since 2009, natural gas production has been steadily decreasing, a trend that continued in the first half of 2023 and is expected to continue into the foreseeable future despite forecasts calling for increased production across the nation, the WSGS says. 

While reported production numbers are not complete for the second half of 2023, it is estimated annual natural gas production totaled 1.2 trillion cubic feet, around 100 billion cubic feet less than what was produced in 2022, per the WSGS, which says the decline can be attributed in part to fewer new gas wells and the decline of existing gas wells. 

According to the WSGS, natural gas wells over time produce less, and new wells are needed to counteract the decline of older wells. New gas drilling plummeted in 2020 and has not recovered, with only 18 new gas wells completed in the first half of 2023. 

Currently, only three of the 13 active rigs operating in Wyoming are specifically targeting gas reservoirs, with gas production from oil drilling operations remaining insufficient to offset the overall downward gas-production trend, the WSGS says. 

A bright spot could be on the horizon for natural gas production, however, with the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission receiving more than 100 applications for permits to drill new gas wells in 2023, signifying improved operator interest, per the WSGS.

Contrary to natural gas production, oil production trended upward in 2023, with the WSGS predicting more than 95 million barrels were produced in Wyoming last year, an increase of 3 million over production numbers from 2022. 

While Wyoming’s oil production numbers mimic gradually increasing national figures, the state oil production numbers have not yet surpassed the 2019 high but continue to benefit from new well drilling and completion, the WSGS says. 

In the first half of 2023, 110 new oil wells were completed, most of them in the Powder River Basin — comparable to the first half of 2022, when 118 wells were completed.

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