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Who should join PGCC?

  • 1

    Oil & Gas Producer

    Individuals, business entities and associations engaged in the exploration and production of natural gas and/orcrude oil in Pennsylvania.

  • 2

    Oil & Gas Industry Service Provider

    Individuals, business entities and associations that offer products and services such as drilling, leasing, marketing of natural gas or crude oil, pipeline construction, well management and service, logging, and similar goods or services related to the exploration and production of Pennsylvania natural gas or crude oil.

  • 3

    Professional Firm

    Individuals, business entities and organizations that provide significant engineering, consulting, legal services, accountants and other such support to the crude oil and natural gas exploration and production industry.

  • 4

    Associate Member

    Individuals who do not fall into any of the categories above. Also, not-for-profit entities.

Conventional Wells

About Convetional (AKA Traditional) Wells

What is a conventional oil or gas well? Think Colonel Drake and his successful oil well drilled in Titusville in 1859. Edwin Drake (not actually a real Colonel) drilled 69.5 feet into a sedimentary rock formation that contained trapped oil and gas. Oil and gas is actually formed at a deeper depth in an organic rock known as the source rock. The organic rock was/is composed of organic debris (plant and marine debris) that has been compacted over millions of years by layers of overlaying rocks. The oil and gas is cooked by the temperatures and pressures generated by the overlaying rocks.

Over time some of the oil and gas migrates upward from the organic rock and becomes trapped in sedimentary formations that are covered or “trapped” by an overlaying impermeable barrier. Colonel Drake drilled into one of those trapped sedimentary formations.

A conventional well is one which taps these traditional sedimentary formations, sometimes also known as “traps.” A conventional well typically is drilled using the same methodology as Colonel Drake: a vertical hole that employs layers of steel and cement to separate the well bore from the surrounding freshwater aquifers.

An unconventional well is different in that it drills deeper to tap the organic rock that is the actual source of the oil and gas. An unconventional well usually employs sophisticated methodologies including horizontal drilling.

In Pennsylvania the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) describes a conventional well as follows. According to DEP’s Act 13 Frequently Asked Questions:

A conventional gas well, also known as a traditional well, is a well that produces oil or gas from a conventional formation. Conventional formations are variable in age, occurring both above and below the Elk Sandstone. While a limited number of such gas wells are capable of producing sufficient quantities of gas without stimulation by hydraulic fracturing, most conventional wells require this stimulation technique due to the reservoir characteristics in Pennsylvania. Stimulation of conventional wells, however, generally does not require the volume of fluids typically required for unconventional wells.

DEP’s description focuses on one operational distinction between conventional and unconventional wells – the volume of fluids required for hydraulic fracturing. While this is an important factor distinguishing the two types of operations (with its obvious implications for water sourcing, transportation, reuse and disposal), there are other differences between conventional and unconventional activities:

  • A typical well pad cleared for a conventional oil or natural gas well is many times smaller than an unconventional well.
  • The needs of the small conventional site are flexible (equipment can frequently be arranged on the access road rather than the site location, etc.); thus the conventional site can be more flexibly adapted to existing site terrain.
  • A new conventional well involves a small number of truck trips (generally less than one dozen).
  • Wellhead pressures of new conventional wells are very low, beginning at several hundred pounds or less and quickly reducing to very low pressures measured in single or double digits.
  • A conventional oil or gas well has a small footprint in the production phase.

Conventional wells are also generally “stripper” wells producing small quantities of oil or gas. Conventional wells have marginal rates of return and are strongly influenced by oil and natural gas commodity prices and other market forces. When the cost to drill conventional wells increases, conventional wells become less viable. The number of conventional wells drilled in Pennsylvania has declined steadily since 2007, from a high of 4,836 wells drilled in 2007 to 2,002 drilled in 2009, to 1,272 wells in 2011, and to less than 1000 wells drilled in 2013.