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Natural Gas

Generalized stratigraphic column showing productive intervals for oil, conventional gas, coalbed methane and coal

Natural gas is a mixture of methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6), propane (C3H8), and carbon dioxide (CO2).  The major markets for natural gas are residential and commercial uses such as space heating, water heating and cooking, and industrial uses such as process heating and chemical feedstock, transportation, and electric power generation.

The two types of natural gas produced in Virginia are: conventional gas, which has migrated from an organic source rock to a porous or fractured reservoir rock; and coal bed methane, which is adsorbed on the coal as it forms.  Conventional gas is produced from Devonian (354 to 417 million years old) shales, and Mississippian (323 to 354 million years old) limestones and sandstones of the Appalachian Basin, in the Appalachian Plateaus Province.  Coal bed methane is produced from the Norton, Lee (New River), and Pocahontas Formations of Pennsylvanian age (290 to 323 million years old) in the same physiographic region. 


Year of first production in Virginia: 1931
Location of first production in Virginia: Scott County
Year of last production in Virginia: currently producing
Location of last production in Virginia: producing in Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell, Lee, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties
Total cumulative production: 1.36 trillion cubic feet since 1950
Total current annual production: 112 billion cubic feet in 2007


Natural gas production locations in Virginia

Figure 1. Natural gas production locations in 2015.


In 2007, a record total of 112 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas was produced in Virginia, with an estimated value of $716 million. This value is based on the average wellhead price reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) of $6.39 per thousand cubic feet. According to the EIA, Virginia ranked 17th in the nation among all States that produced natural gas in 2006.

Coal bed methane accounted for roughly 79 percent of the total production (about 88.3 bcf) and conventional gas accounted for about 21 percent (about 23.5 bcf). A small amount of gas (about 0.24 bcf) was produced from dual completion wells, which produce gas from both conventional reservoirs and coal bed methane reservoirs.

In 2007, a total of 24 companies operated gas wells that included 4,132 coal bed methane wells, 1,588 conventional wells, and 15 dual completion wells. All of these wells are located within the Southwest Virginia Coalfield region that includes all or portions of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties. Buchanan County accounted for the largest share of production, about 54 percent of the total.

Gas production has experienced an upward trend since 1980, and has increased 125 percent from 1995 to 2007. The increase was related to growth in coal bed methane production, which reached a record level in 2007. Most of the increased production occurred in Buchanan County, where gas production increased from 27.4 bcf in 1995 to 60.2 bcf in 2007. The conventional gas production rate has increased 20 percent in the last twelve years.


Virginia Gas Production by Type

Figure 2. Natural gas production in billion cubic feet (Bcf), and value in millions of dollars, 1995-2014



Data sources: Production from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Division of Gas and Oil, Abingdon, Virginia (updated yearly). Unit price from the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Washington, D. C. (updated yearly). Data available upon request.


Current DGMR Natural Gas Projects:

Resource Assessment and Exploration Potential of the Devonian Gas Play in Virginia


Other Links:

Virginia Division of Gas and Oil

U.S. Energy Information Administration

Virginia Energy Patterns and Trends


Selected References:Averitt, P., 1941, The Early Grove Gas Field, Scott and Washington Counties, Virginia, VDMR Bulletin 56, 50 p., 3 pls., 4 figs., 5 tables.

Gilmer, Amy K., Enomoto, Catherine B., Lovett, James A., and Spears, David B., 2005, Mineral and Fossil Fuel Production in Virginia (1999-2003): Virginia Division of Mineral Resource Open File Report 05-04, 77 p.

Jacobeen, F. H., Jr., 1992, Oil and Gas Well Analyses of Hydrocarbon Potential of Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise Counties, Virginia; VDMR Open-File Report 92-2, 17 p., 3 figs., 5 tables, 26 plates.

LeVan, D. C., and Rader, E. K., 1983, Relationship of Stratigraphy to Occurrences of Oil and Gas in Western Virginia; VDMR Publication 43, one sheet.

Milici, Robert C., and Upchurch, Michael L., 1991, VDMR Brochure “Oil and Gas in Virginia,” revised 2007.