Natural Gas Production Declines on Federal Lands

Gas production on federal property declined each year between 2007 and 2014

natural gas
Oil pumps and natural gas burn off in Watford City, N.D. / AP

Natural gas production has declined on federal lands even while increasing on private property, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

Private lands produced 15,601 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2010. Production has grown by 55 percent on private lands, rising to 24,143 billion cubic feet in 2015, the latest year for which data is available.

Natural gas production on federal lands has declined by 27 percent since 2010.

Private lands also produce a greater share of the total natural gas produced in the United States. Privately held property produced 84 percent of the total natural gas produced in the entire United States in 2015, while federal lands produced only 16 percent of the total.

"Natural gas production in the United States overall has dramatically increased each year since 2006, in contrast, production on federal lands declined each year from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2014," the report states. "Federal natural gas production fluctuated around 30% of total U.S. production for much of the 1980s through the early 2000s, after which there began a steady decline (as a percent of U.S. total production) through fiscal year 2015."

The report also looked at the production of crude oil, which has increased greatly on private lands but has remained about the same on federal lands in the last five years.

Private lands produced 3.501 million barrels a day of crude oil in 2010 and in 2015 that number increased to 7.46 million barrels, an increase of 113 percent. In 2010, federal lands produced 1.940 million barrels of oil a day and in 2015 that increased to 1.955 million barrels, an increase of 0.8 percent.

While crude oil production increased on both private and federal lands in 2015, private lands contributed more to total oil production. Private lands contributed to 79 percent of the total oil produced in the United States in 2015 while federal lands comprised only 21 percent of the total.

"Nonfederal crude oil production rapidly increased in the past few years, primarily due to improved extraction technology, favorable geology, and the ease of leasing, more than doubling daily production between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2015," the report states. "The federal share of total U.S. crude oil production fell from its peak at nearly 36% in fiscal year 2010 to 21% in fiscal year 2015."

The Department of the Interior did not respond to requests for comment by press time.