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Pa. shale gas permits climb 19% YOY in January, top drillers remain subdued

Permitting activity for shale gas wells in Pennsylvania grew 19% year over year in January with less of a share of new permits going to the state's top five producers, according to the latest data from the state's Department of Environmental Protection.

Normally, the state's top five producers — EQT Corp., Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Range Resources Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Southwestern Energy Co. — account for more than half of state's monthly permitting activity. In January, that figure dropped to 44%, according to DEP data accessed Feb. 3.

While EQT, Range and Cabot increased their permitting activity in January, Southwestern pulled no permits and Chesapeake — emerging this month from Chapter 11 reorganization — pulled only one.

Permitting was down in the state's top two producing counties, Washington and Susquehanna, compared to the prior month, shifting instead to Greene County in the southwest and Lycoming and Bradford counties in the northeast.

Private producers accounted for 38% of new permits, slightly more than normal, driven by the 10 permits pulled by Texas' Chief Oil & Gas LLC for wells in the dry gas northeast counties of Bradford and Sullivan, as well as newcomer Tilden Bradford LLC's four permits for Bradford County wells.

While under pressure from investors and the stock market to keep spending constrained, Southwestern and Range both added rigs to their Appalachian operations in January, according to Enverus' RigData report Jan. 27. "Southwestern added two rigs since the start of the year, with five running currently," Enverus' analyst Erin Faulkner said. "Range Resources also added a rig in early 2021 and is now running three."

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