The 10 Largest Natural Gas Drillers in the U.S.

Top 10ProPublica recently compiled a list of the top 10 natural gas drillers in the U.S. based on daily natural gas production volume. The list includes gas drilled by both “traditional” vertical drilling as well as “non-traditional” horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Or think of it as non-shale gas and shale gas—companies who drill for both are in the list. The Marcellus Shale represents a good portion of the gas now being produced in the country, but other shale formations, like the more mature Barnett Shale (in Texas) also contribute a substantial volume of natural gas.

MDN presents this list as a useful resource for landowners. The biggest drillers are not always the best, and not always the right choice for a given landowner and situation. However, knowing who the “bigs” are can be a helpful guide—you know they have the money and the technology to get the gas out of the ground, and they have money to pay for leases and royalties.

There are more than 14,000 oil & gas companies, many of them small businesses, active in the United States. But multinational giants like Exxon Mobil and BP now produce much of the nation’s gas. The 10 biggest drillers account for one-third of all production, data from the Natural Gas Supply Association and the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. The 40 largest producers pump more than half of all domestic natural gas.

The list features both “integrated” oil-and-gas giants, such as Exxon Mobil, which refines and sells gasoline around the world, and “independents,” such as Chesapeake Energy, which are primarily in oil and gas exploration and production.

1. Exxon Mobil

The biggest natural gas producer is also the country’s biggest oil company and one of the most profitable corporations in the world. Exxon has operations in every continent but Antarctica. Its oil and gas operations range across several states, from Pennsylvania to Colorado, and it also has wells in the Gulf of Mexico and off the California coast. With the purchase of XTO, Exxon produces nearly 50 percent more gas than its closest competitor. About two-thirds of the company’s domestic reserves are now in natural gas, with the rest in oil.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 3.9 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $370 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 8.9 billion barrels of oil (2.3 billion in the U.S.), 2.1 billion barrels of bitumen (none in the U.S.), 681 million barrels of synthetic crude (none in the U.S.), 78.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (26.1 trillion in the U.S.).

2. Chesapeake Energy

Chesapeake calls itself the most active driller in the country, with operations in 15 states, from the Rockies to Texas to Pennsylvania. The company is a good example of how "independent" doesn’t necessarily mean small. As of last year, the company owned an interest in 45,800 wells, of which 38,900 were primarily gas wells. Chesapeake has built itself as a gas company, but it is increasingly looking for "liquids-rich plays," according to its annual report. Gas wells generally produce oil and other hydrocarbon liquids as well in varying amounts, depending on the geologic formation. With oil prices high and gas prices low, many companies are seeking more wells that are oil- and liquids-rich, particularly in North Dakota, southern Texas and Pennsylvania.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 2.6 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $9.4 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 14.3 trillion cubic feet of gas equivalent (10 percent of that is oil or other liquids, converted to the equivalent volume in gas).

3. Anadarko

Anadarko is one of the biggest independent oil and gas producers in the country, with exploration or production work in all major domestic drilling areas as well as in South America, Africa, Asia and New Zealand. Worldwide, natural gas makes up just over half of Anadarko’s reserves, but 87 percent of the new wells it drilled in the United States last year were gas wells. Like many other companies, Anadarko is increasingly looking for oil- and liquids-rich production this year.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 2.4 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $11 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 749 million barrels of oil and condensate (458 million in the U.S.), 320 million barrels of natural gas liquids (307 million in the U.S.), 8.1 trillion cubic feet of gas, all in the United States.

4. Devon Energy

Devon is an independent driller primarily active in the United States and Canada. The company is in the process of divesting operations in Angola and Brazil, its only holdings outside of North America. More than 90 percent of Devon’s U.S. reserves are in natural gas, with most of that lying in Texas’ Barnett Shale. Like its peers, however, Devon says that this year it will focus on drilling in areas rich with oil and other liquids.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 2 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $9.9 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 681 million barrels of oil (148 million in the U.S.), 479 million barrels of natural gas liquids (449 million in the U.S.), 10.3 trillion cubic feet of gas (9 trillion in the U.S.).

5. BP

Fortune lists BP as the fourth-largest corporation in the world. The company drills in 29 countries and sells its products in 70. While BP is headquartered in London, 42 percent of the company’s assets are in the United States. BP reported a $3.7 billion loss last year after spending nearly $41 billion on cleaning up the Gulf oil spill and compensating those who were affected. The company remains primarily an oil producer, with about 40 percent of its reserves in natural gas.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 1.9 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $297 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 10.7 billion barrels of oil (2.9 billion in the U.S.), 42.7 trillion cubic feet of gas (13.7 trillion in the U.S.).

6. Encana

Encana is one of the largest independent gas companies in the world, with operations mostly in the western United States and Canada, where it is based. The company has focused almost exclusively on gas.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 1.8 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $8.9 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 93.3 million barrels of liquids (38.5 million in the U.S.), 13.8 trillion cubic feet of gas (7.5 trillion in the U.S.).

7. ConocoPhillips

ConocoPhillips is currently an integrated oil corporation, but it recently announced plans to split into two companies, one focused on refining, the other on production. The company has listed acquiring more shale reserves in North America among its top strategic goals over the past couple of years and drills in several western states, as well as in Louisiana and Arkansas. It is exploring for shale gas in Poland and has operations in six continents.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 1.6 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $198.7 billion

Reserves, 2010: 3.4 billion barrels of oil and natural gas liquids (1.9 billion in the U.S.), 1.2 billion barrels of bitumen (none in the U.S.), 21.7 trillion cubic feet of gas (10.5 trillion in the U.S.).

8. Southwestern Energy Co.

Southwestern is another independent driller that focuses exclusively on natural gas. The company has operations in Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania, with most of its production coming from the Fayetteville Shale formation underlying parts of Arkansas.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 1.3 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $2.6 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 1 million barrels of oil, 4.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.

9. Chevron

Chevron is the second-largest oil company in the country, and the third-biggest company overall in terms of revenue. It has been building its gas reserves recently, most notably with the purchase of Atlas Energy, an active shale gas driller. Still, more than 60 percent of the company’s worldwide reserves are in oil. The majority of Chevron’s oil and gas production comes overseas. Domestically, Chevron operates in seven states, including Pennsylvania, Texas and California, and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 1.3 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $198.2 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 6.5 billion barrels of oil and other liquids (1.3 billion in the U.S.), 24.3 trillion cubic feet of gas (2.5 trillion in the U.S.).

10. Williams Energy

Williams is an independent producer focused largely on natural gas. It owns 13,900 miles of pipelines, which it says deliver 12 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States. The company recently announced plans to separate its exploration and production activities from its other operations. Williams has holdings in many of the major shale basins across the country, from Pennsylvania to North Dakota to Texas. The company also owns interests in several international companies.

Average Daily Natural Gas Production: 1.2 billion cubic feet.

Revenue, 2010: $9.6 billion.

Reserves, 2010: 4.3 trillion cubic feet equivalent (3 percent of that is oil or other liquids, converted to the equivalent volume in gas).

Source: ProPublica (Sep 1, 2011) – Who Are America’s Top 10 Gas Drillers

  • Glad your back at it Jim.I hope you had a great vacation.

  • Thanks Tom! Glad to be back. Nice time away, but as always, when you return…it’s a mountain of stuff to do to get back in the swing.

  • Effects of Oil & Drilling on the Environment. Oil drilling has diverse and widespread effects on the environment. It can destroy habitats, disrupt animal migrations

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  • I have found that there are few dumber people than the religious environmentalist.They are ill informed,do nothing more than spout propaganda,and are bereft of ideas as to how a population is to survive without abundant energy.I guess that is their ultimate goal-exterminate man from mommy earth,but they never want to go first.Pity!

  • Well said! Love your comment.

  • Chuck Crusan

    I thought the same thing until I started working in the oil and gas industry. Here in Colorado I see wildlife on and around well pads literally every single day. In fact wildlife is more prevalent around well pads due to hunting restrictions. I have spent hours working only yards from deer, elk and turkey. Oil and gas drilling seems to bother people who have no first hand experience much more than it does wildlife.

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  • Tim, I use the term “driller” as a loose equivalent for exploration & production company. I know the difference. In layman’s terms, however, most people think of E&Ps as “the driller.” You are correct that most of them hire the drilling, fracking, etc. done by Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and other oilfield service companies. That’s just how the industry is set up–it doesn’t make it good or bad–it’s just what is. The people who originally hail from Texas (and other parts in the southwest) working up here in the northeast have been stellar professionals. I’ve not met one, yet, who is reckless or doesn’t give a fig, as you imply. I’m all in favor of more “locals” getting jobs, but I’m not against having some people from other regions come in too. Their money is green and spends at the local hotel/store/restaurant the same as someone who grew up here. My 2 cents.

  • tim

    Knowledge is based on experience. You cannot really understand the oilfield simply by reading a newspaper, blog or book. I spent a few years drilling in the southern United States, Texas , Mexico , Oklahoma. Great people but next to no drilling codes that are actually enforced . I spent 4 years in the North Slope . In the dead of winter I have seen temps of 80 below zero. You would think that this would surely be an area where short cuts would be taken. And you would be wrong! Even in this extreme climate our work was achieved by the book. I have been drilling in the NorthEast for 3+ years now. I live here and have met countless oilfield hands that are local and very knowledgable . I am indeed impressed with this area. These landholding companies are responsible for everything the drilling contractor does. Drilling contractors do all their work per the company mans request. The only thing that can void said contract is work that would cause bodily harm or damage to the drilling equipment. Yet if their is an issue “spills,injuries ” on location it is always the drilling contractor that gets run off, and not the landholder. It is a real no brainer that these things happen generally when there is no safety enforcement , or the company achieved minimum containment. All of which is the company mans job to enforce. I would like to thank you for pointing out the way the Patch is set up . I work with these companies everyday . I don’t read about them !
    Maybe you should get a job on a rig so you can see first hand how the industry actually works. These stories you write about change at least a half dozen times before you hear them. Fiction/ Science Fiction?

    Here is some change

  • Thanks Tim! Completely right. I expect my perspective would be different if I worked a rig job. I may check into that. Not for long-term, but maybe for a week or so–just to see what happens day to day.

  • tim

    I realize this comment is 3 years old. It kills me to think people like this still comment on drilling. This comment would have been true in the 80’s. Todays drilling codes are strictly enforced. Even the areas in our country that are not as strictly enforced still require countermeasures to ensure if a problem did occur it could be dealt with quickly. Almost all wells drilled today require 4 sections of casing . conductor, surface, intermediate and production casing. All of these areas are cemented back to surface using high grade portland cement. All of these locations are to be restored upon the equipment leaving location.When I think of environmental issues I think of vehicles leaking fluid but I am not going to recommend diapers for cars. As for disrupting animal migrations that is hilarious and false. In Texas we had snake dens under our equipment very common. Deer, birds you name it. Keep an open mind on drilling it creates jobs and affordable resources that are literally everywhere. And for the environmentalists out there IT IS CLEAN BURNING compared to other alternatives.

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  • You have not brought me women, weed or freedom to travel. Hlel you talk about dead people and fake elections rather than pleasing me, Am-Erika, the next ‘race’ (first born unique horn). See who your New World Order House of the Risen invidivisible sun (Police/Sting).
    Yep, I am your yellow sub-marine. You are stuck with a valuable depressed friend but chu fake chews gotta know you are really the 666 proto-electro-neutron elemental split-gnat satan-babies in Baby Land making your grand-mothers sick . I am [email protected] G-U-Y Gaia [email protected] allah ya all are mis-n-twist translating/channeling me in psalm and politics and religion and economics.
    There can be only one Queen Doo-Bee Brah [email protected] 18:15-18 & Psalm 84:3 Roost Heir.
    You were born already burtnt into mein hollow cost contraception campf Ghee Haw-D.
    Email [email protected] with ‘peace’ in the subject line.

  • More correctly they tie up your land in leases then change the terminology or meanings within the contract so you share more of the cost and so fracking is made to appear as routine maintenance when in fact once those are in place [email protected] voids the lease, as does poisoning the water supply.
    Them fake jews would have drowned allah ya all in debt and fake muslims if I would not have woken-up and took my inheritance.
    Now you have to actually do some work and email [email protected] with ‘peace’ in the subject line and send 72 single sanctified sexy secretaries (SSSSS) to show the fake muslims who their Last Profit High German Kurds-n-Wahy-Whey Gemini-Tiger EU-Patterned Papal Bull Cannon See Hearer Here is @ Earache My Eye.

  • Carol Kiser

    its more polluting than coal to produce the gas ..I’ve seen the fracking gone bad in Pennsylvania…leaking holding ponds the blatant disregard for the environment ie wetlands rivers and water wells ect.not to mention the 50 plus an hour of diesel trucks driving up and down the road to the well site …I don’t have breathing problems but I was choking literally for the lack of air

  • Carol, while I sympathize with the problems you mention–and yes, we must admit there are problems and impacts–they are temporary problems. They last for a few months, in some cases a few years. There are things that can be done to minimize the impacts (only operate between certain hours, etc.). The holding ponds for wastewater are now a thing of the past in PA, written out of the regulations. To say that long-term natgas is worse for the environment than coal is, to be blunt, silly.

  • Carol Kiser