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US shale energy production to enter 2018 at record pace

The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that the growth of shale output of natural gas and crude oil will continue in January 2018, with gas output climbing for the 10th consecutive month to come in 17.6% above the same month a year earlier.

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The latest installment of the "Drilling Productivity Report," published by the EIA on Dec. 18, showed that total output of natural gas across seven key shale plays is likely to climb 1.2% in January 2018 versus the previous month to 63.03 Bcf/d.

That follows a 1.4% increase in December from the November level of 61.41 Bcf/d.

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The EIA expects six of the seven shale formations it tracks to show increases versus the prior month in January 2018, with Appalachia increasing the most on a volume basis with a gain of 346.7 MMcf/d, followed by the Permian with an increase of 189.9 MMcf/d.

On a percentage basis, EIA projections show the Permian and the Haynesville tying for the largest change with increases of 2.0%.

The EIA projects Appalachian production will have increased 3.33 Bcf/d year over year in January 2018, but pipeline capacity serving the region has also increased. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted permission on Dec. 15 for Energy Transfer Partners LP to commence service on all phase one natural gas laterals and compressor stations on its 3.25-Bcf/d, 511-mile Rover Pipeline LLC, giving the Marcellus and Utica supply basin shippers an incremental receipt capacity of 2.45 Bcf/d.

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The EIA projects shale production of crude oil in January 2018 will climb 1.5% from the prior month to 6.41 MMbbl/d, for year-over-year growth of 22.5%.

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The government agency expects all seven shale plays to experience oil production increases versus the prior month in January 2018.

On a volume basis, EIA projections show the Permian leading all of the shale plays with an increase of 67.9 Mbbl/d, with the Bakken trailing second with a gain of 9.3 Mbbl/d.

On a percentage basis, those projections show the Permian and the Appalachia tying for the largest change with an increase of 2.5%.

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Since the previous month's report, the EIA raised its December shale gas output estimate by 562.9 MMcf/d to 62.27 Bcf/d. At the same time, the government agency increased its December shale oil production estimate by 141.0 Mbbl/d versus last month to 6.31 MMbbl/d.

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The number of drilled but uncompleted, or DUC, wells climbed by 94 from the prior month to reach 7,354 in November, with DUC figures for October revised down by 82 to 7,260.

The Permian gained the most DUCs in November as it added 96 wells, while the Niobrara saw a decrease of 23 wells.

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While shale resources and production are found in many parts of the U.S., the EIA's drilling productivity report focuses on the seven most prolific areas, which are in the Lower 48.