The total number of wells producing crude oil and natural gas in the United States declined to 982,000 in 2018, while production rose, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency recently updated its report on U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Wells by Production Rate, showing how daily production rates of individual wells contributed to a rise in total crude oil and natural gas production in 2018.
The number of wells reached a peak of 1.04 million in 2014. Non-horizontal wells, most of which are vertical wells, declined 10% to 842,000 in 2018, from 935,000 in 2014. Horizontal wells are less common, but they have started to account for a larger share of the total number of wells drilled. In 2018, the 140,000 horizontal wells accounted for 14% of total wells drilled in 2018. In 2014, the 99,000 horizontal wells accounted for 10% of the total.
Horizontal wells are more expensive to drill than vertical wells; however, horizontal wells contact more reservoir rock and produce greater volumes, according to the EIA. In 2018, 32% of horizontal wells produced at least 100 barrels of crude oil per day, but only 1% of vertical wells produced at least 100 barrels per day. As horizontal wells became more prevalent, production continued to rise even though the total number of wells declined.
U.S. production rose from 8.8 million barrels per day in 2014 to 10.8 million barrels per day in 2018. Over the same period, U.S. natural gas production increased from about 78.5 billion cubic feet per day to 94.8 billion cubic feet per day. Since 2019, crude oil and natural gas production has continued to rise. In November 2019, crude oil production rose to about 12.9 million barrels per day, and natural gas production increased to 116.9 billion cubic feet per day.
Most U.S. oil and natural gas production comes from wells producing between 50 barrels of oil equivalent per day and 1,600 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Wells within this range accounted for 9% of active wells that produced 66% of crude oil production and 62% of natural gas production.